Heritage. As a youngster, I always wondered of the heritage that resulted in me. The culture at home was a simple one when it came down to family stories and history. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Well, I guess I shouldn’t ask THAT question again!
My father, Henry Dunn Robison, went into the Navy exactly 3 weeks after Pearl Harbor at the “insistence” of his father. He and the previous 4 generations had lived in Alabama and Tennessee. As I discovered years later, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah Robertson, was a veteran or the War of 1812 having served with the East Tennessee Volunteers. During World War II, Henry’s mother divorced her husband and moved to Massachusetts. The short version here is the “Granny” lived with us in Springfield for a while until she entered a nursing home in the mid-60s where she died in 1970.
I never saw my grandfather who remained in Alabama. I was only marginally aware of the fact that I even had a grandfather. My father made a 5- or 10-minute call “down south” around Christmas-time every year. I never saw “Papa Lee” nor did I ever speak with him. He died in 1964. My first view of him was his obituary on the front page of the Anniston (Alabama) Star. While I shouldn’t have been surprised, he looked exactly like my father and it was a little unsettling.
My maternal grandfather died when I was about 3 years old but my maternal grandmother lived until 1962. Of all of my grandparents, she’s the only one with whom I had ever had any semblance of a conversation.
The upshot is that my father didn’t care to talk about his dysfunctional side of the family and my mother thought it best to hold the same line with regard to her side.
Now, enter the genealogist! I wouldn’t say that I was desperately seeking anything necessarily. But the lack of information led me to feel that we were all dropped off on earth by an alien spaceship back in the early 50s! Then, as I began researching for details, I was able to interview some of the prior generations of relatives: 3 aunts, 1 great-grandaunt and a couple of second cousins. If I only knew then what I know now!
In 2001, I got the bug to join a lineage society. If successful, that would “install” a heritage that was there all along but of which I was totally unaware. Maternal family lore stated that we descended from Pilgrims. Okay, but who, what, where, why, and when? There was a box of spoons that were allegedly made from the silver buckles of their shoes. Spoiler: hardly any pilgrims had silver buckles on their shoes! More on that some other time.
Paternal lore stated, well, nothing! But after a comparatively short period of time, I began to suspect that there was some validity to the Pilgrim story, underscore “some.” At the same time, I uncovered real evidence that my paternal lines stretched back to at least the War of 1812, as I mentioned earlier, and possibly the Revolutionary War.
So, here we go! Let’s join the Sons of the American Revolution. I downloaded an application and worked on it sporadically for about 15 years. Yes, not 5 or 10, but for 15 years, the application languished in my desk. In my defense, I was certainly busy with dozens of projects, nearly all of which involved genealogy. Then, in 2016, I was a co-chair for a relatively large genealogy conference to be held in Springfield, Massachusetts in the spring of 2017. We normally brought in 2 featured speakers along with several dozen others. It was my intent to solicit Kenyatta Berry, one of the very personable hosts of the PBS program “Genealogy Road Show.” It was filming in Providence, Rhode Island. So off I went to Providence, Rhode Island. Short version, Kenyatta Berry became the third and very welcomed featured speaker. Score 1 for Dave.
In the meantime, many of my fellow genealogists were at the filming representing various clubs and societies in the vendor area of the venue. A friend of mine introduced me to the Registrar for a chapter of the DAR. I told her my story of profound procrastination with my SAR application. She eagerly said, “I can help!” OK, that’s great but I can’t join the DAR, I would qualify! She asked if I had a daughter which I most certainly do. As a result, my daughter is now a member of the Lexington Chapter of the DAR. For my purposes, I merely had to finish my SAR application, exclude my daughter’s generation and I could qualify.
But here, finally, is the most interesting part of the story: I have identified at least 24 ancestors who are age-appropriate to have served in the War, all would have been between their late teens to their early 40s. The specific ancestor we picked was a Patriot who had only most recently been identified as such. Timothy Blodgett’s story involves mostly obscurity. He was a family man who, with his wife ran a small farm in Deerfield, Massachusetts while raising a small brood of 14 children. He was born in 1740 in Lexington, Massachusetts and was involved in the first battle of the War. The Lexington engagement occurred on 19 April 1775 then shortly thereafter came the battle at Concord. My ancestor was one of the registered Minute Men under Captain Charles PArker who confronted the British at Lexington, his hometown.
The singular reason that he was finally identified as a Patriot is that he lost his musket during the battle and petitioned for compensation at the Lexington Town Hall the following morning. The record of that petition was only discovered in 2012.
“Bill Poole, executive officer with the Minute Men, said he discovered Blodgett when he was researching local militia in the archives of Capt. Parker’s Company in Lexington. Blodgett had moved to Shutesbury the year after the fateful morning on April 19, 1775 and his name was never included on the official “muster roll.”
But Poole said he found several documents confirming Blodgett’s post, noting he even applied for a reimbursement from then selectmen for a firearm he lost on the Battle Green. The young militia man lost the musket when he attempted to jump over a fence to while fleeing from the Regulars, Poole said.”1
Here is the photo from the article clearly showing the addition of Timothy Blodgett’s name to the bottom of the second column:
The proof of my ancestor came fairly easy as I had nearly every document necessary. We used the documentation first for my daughter’s DAR application, then for my own SAR application.
But wait! There’s more! In early 2016, I was giving a presentation to the East Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Historical Society. It was basically an introduction to family research that was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm. Apparently, the members of the East Longmeadow Historical Society are in the habit of showing up just a little late for their meetings. So at 6:58, I was “concerned” but not showing it. Then in walks our first guest. A delicate, elderly woman who I greeted with a smile. Her name is Ruth Washburn, my first guest that night. I smiled because I had at least one person for the audience. She said, “I’m so glad I could make it. I usually can’t drive at night.” I offered her a ride home as I was sure there would be someone there who she knew but she turned me down, flat! As I walked her to the front of the room, I sat her in a seat that was directly in front of where I would be speaking. When I mentioned the SAR, I also mentioned that my Patriot Ancestor was Timothy Blodgett. At that moment Ruth gasped and covered her mouth. Naturally, I suspected that something was wrong. I stopped and asked if she was OK. With a tear in her I (really…she teared up!) she said that she, too, was a descendant of Timothy Blodgett.
As it turns out, Ruth Muriel Blodgett Fisher Washburn is a very energetic 91-year-old cousin who, in her own right, is a well-established family historian. She’s pictured here in front of the window that was in one of her cousin’s family’s home. When asked if there was anything in the house she would want, she said she’d love to have that window but knew it was impossible. She would spend a great deal of time at this house during the summers of her youth and remembered the happiness that the sunlight brought her when it came streaming through the multicolored window.
I’ve spent time with Ruth to hear her stories and learn more about the Blodgett line. She has an extensive database which she has been more than willing to share with me. But more important to me than a database, she has personal knowledge and a clear, sharp memory.
Now, if I ever have the time, I just might prove more Patriot ancestors from both my maternal and my paternal side.
And one more thing, I’ve found 4 direct Mayflower ancestors. All I need to do is prove those lines and I’ll be able to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing in 2020.
- “Lexington Minute Men add new name to monument,” website, (http://bit.ly/Blodgett_Lexington : accessed 18 July 2016).