Saturday, February 28, 2009

Coffin Plate of Mary L Durfee 1856 ~ 1864

The Coffin Plate of Mary L Durfee 1856 ~ 1864 is online on Ancestors At Mary L Durfee

I dont know who this Mary was but she may have been from North Providence, Providence, Rhode Island.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Graveyard Rabbits Carnival, Manly Family Coffin Plates

The topic for the premier edition of the Graveyard Rabbits carnival is "exceptional finds. So I thought I would share my 3 favorite coffin plates from my collection. I started my collection of coffin plates after my mother gave me one that had been handed down in our family for over 100 years.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the subject. Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased. Generally made of a soft metal like lead, pewter, silver, brass, copper, zinc or tin. The different metals reflect the different functions of the plates, or the status and wealth of the deceased.

In North America in the 1840s the practice of removing the plates from the coffin before burial as mementos started to become common. This practice was particularly popular in the North Eastern United States, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The farther you get from the Northeastern U.S. the less common the practice becomes. This practice peaked in the late 19th century (1880~1899) and by the 1920s it had all but stopped.

I have many coffin plates in my collection, several hundred in fact, but my 3 favorite plates are rare as the come from England. The English never went in for the North American practice of removing the plates before burial. They preferred to leave the plates attached to the coffin when it was buried so as you can imagine the English coffin plates are a little hard to get.

English coffin plates were also different from North American plates in that the English plates were often much larger. In north America most coffin plates are only about 4 to 6in wide. However in England they often used much larger plates called breast plates. Breast plates can be as much as 12in wide and 18in tall and are often shaped like a shield.

This set of three brass coffin depositum plates are all from the Manly family. These items were removed with the family's permission upon the deconsecration of the church and clearing of crypts etc. The two from 1875 are in classic Gothic shield style are professionally manufactured by Ingali Parson whilst the 1893 piece is heavily influenced by Arts & Crafts movement but has no makers mark. All three plates are brass with hand engraved lettering.

The plates read
William Manly Died Oct 25 1893 Aged 84 years.
Martha Manly Wife of William Manly Died April 26th 1875 Aged 62 years.
George Frederick Manly Died April 8th 1875 Aged 28 years.

Many people are a little surprised when they first see my collection of coffin plates. A lot of them ask me why I collect something that to them is kind of creepy or morbid. To me they are works of art. The beautiful engraving was all done by hand in the days before machines took over that job. The designs of the plates themselves reflect the styles of the period in which they were made. They also represent the growing industrial skill of the metalworking industry. And of course as a genealogist I love the way they connect me to the past. When I read the names on the plates I think about who the person was, what their life was like. I often try to do a little research on the family to see if I can learn any thing about them. I feel in some small way like I am keeping the memory of that person alive. I may not be related to that person but in many cases I am probably the only person who ever thinks about them, or in some cases is even aware they ever existed. And I think everyone deserves to be remembered.

Monday, February 16, 2009

William Massey Paid A Heavy Price

When I found out that the next topic for the Canadian Genealogy Carnival is Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors I thought to myself, "This is a Genealogy Carnival that I can take part in" For if there is one thing that I seem to have an abundance of it's Black Sheep Ancestors. The only hard part about participating in this Blog Carnival is deciding what ancestor to talk about. There is my great grandfather the hard drinking Sunday school teacher who wrote racist poetry as a hobby. Also my ancestor the railway worker who was arrested for stealing Winchester rifles from a boxcar. My bigamist ancestor. The Gambler. The rum runner and his wife who ended up in a penetentiary. And of course we can't forget my ancestors who were mixed up in the massacre of the Donnelly family. Canada's notorious family, the Black Donnellys, were massacred February 4th, 1880 by a vigilante committee.

However my favourite Black Sheep Ancestor is William Massey. William was my 4th Great Grandfather and he lived in the small town of St.Marys Ontario. The details are sketchy but it seams William worked for the Wells Fargo company in the early 1860s as a stage coach driver. One of the things that Wells Fargo did was transport money from place to place. One day for reasons we will never know William decided to help himself to over $888 dollars. This may not seem like much money to us today but back in 1863 it was a lot of cash.

Well I guess William was not the smartest criminal who ever lived as he soon found himself in front of the local magistrate on an indictment of larceny. I do not know much about the workings of the Canadian Justice system in the 1860s but it seems that this Court appearance was some kind of preliminary hearing to see if charges were warranted. Sort of like a Grand Jury in the United States. One interesting little side note is that one of the jurors was Timothy Eaton. Mr Eaton went on to found the Eaton department store chain. For you Americans out there, Eatons was Canada's equivalent of Sears.

Anyhow it would seem that the jury thought there was enough evidence to warrant charges so William was sent home to await his trial. However old William did not want to take his chances in court. He decided to get the heck out of Dodge and head south for the border, and a few weeks later he was in Massachusetts where he enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in the Civil War.

Now it appears William being the crafty criminal mastermind that he was may have enlisted under the alias of John Smith. However William, or John Smith, did not much care for Army life for he soon deserted and made his way back to St.Marys just before his death in November 1865. It is hard to say what William's reasons for going back to St.Marys might have been. One can only speculate. His daughter claimed that he was so broken in body and spirt after the war that he died soon after returning. Whatever the reason it would seem he paid a heavy price for that $888.00 in stolen Wells Fargo money.

Hopewell Township, York County Pennsylvania, 1890 Tax Records

Hopewell Township, York County Pennsylvania, 1890 Tax Book. I have started to add scans of each page of the Hopewell Township, York County Pennsylvania, 1890 Tax Book. This book is a fantastic one-of-a-kind genealogy resource for Hopewell Township, York County Pennsylvania as it helps to replace the missing 1890 census. The book contains a complete list of every person in Hopewell Township that paid land tax in 1890. The book contains 4 columns that the tax collector could fill in, Name, County Tax, State Tax, and Remarks. I have transcribed only the names of the individuals found in the book and they are online. Now I have started to add a scan of each page so you can see the records for your self. I am only up to the letter C at this time but I will keep scanning.

Hopewell Township, York County Pennsylvania, 1890 Tax Book

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Coffin Plates

John Becker died 1898, John Becker died 1902, John Williams Lee died 1883, James Nolan died 1862, Josiah Rockwood died 1853, Mary Tobin died 1886, Walter Shillabe died 1803, I have added a few more coffin plates in the last week or two.

Coffin Plates

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Edward Haskell and Judith Haskell Coffin Plates

Edward Haskell and Judith Haskell coffin plates are now online on Ancestors At Rest. Edward H Haskell Died Sept 6 1880 Aged 62 years 5 ms and Judith Haskell Died June 6 1854 age 13 years.

Coffin Plates