Category Archives: Those Places Thursday

Those Places Thursday – Petersham, Massachusetts

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One of our many ancestral hometowns is Petersham, Massachusetts, population 1234 as of 2010. In 1733, land was granted to a group of men to found a town in central Massachusetts. Even before this time, though, our Wilson relatives were already in residence – Joseph Willson, my 7G-grand-uncle, was said to be the first white man to winter here, and Abner, son of Joseph and his wife Rebakah, was born here in October 10, 1732.

Joseph’s brother Samuel, my 7G-grandfather, was born about 1702 in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, then known as Billerica. Tewksbury’s state hospital once housed Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller‘s teacher, as a child. Samuel Willson married Mary Davenport on November 25, 1734.  He had 13 children, all of whom appear to have been born in Petersham. Either Mary’s approximate birthdate of 1696 is incorrect, or Samuel may have been married more than once.

John Willson (my 6G-grandfather), born July 3, 1735
Mary Willson, born March 12, 1737
Olive Willson, born February 13, 1739
Benjamin Willson, born November 24, 1740
Molley Willson, born December 13, 1742
Samuel Willson, born October 3, 1744
Ester Willson, born February 26, 1747
Eunice Willson, born March 3, 1750
Louis Willson, born July 20, 1752
Persis Willson, born August 12, 1754
Jenne Willson, born February 2, 1757
Nahum Willson, born July 14, 1759
Elizabeth Willson, born 1761

In 2002 Mom and I visited Petersham, explored its cemeteries and encountered a wild turkey. We also spent time in the Petersham Country Store. We were sad to learn later that the store had closed, though it appears that the store still has a lot of supporters in the area. While in Petersham Mom and I also learned about the building of the Quabbin Reservoir between 1930 and 1939, which flooded four towns: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott. I am thankful Petersham was spared.

Those Places Thursday – Pisgah, Illinois

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There is nothing better than a genealogical pilgrimage. I try to squeeze in one (or several) any time I travel.  So what if it makes a trip hours (or days) longer than it would have been otherwise? Every summer we return to Fairbury, Illinois to visit relatives, and we usually manage to fit an extra side trip in there somewhere as well.  We made one such trip  four years ago to Pisgah, Illinois. Essentially a wide spot in the road and a grain elevator, Pisgah nevertheless was the location of genealogical events in the lives of 24 family members, including 21 burials. Union Baptist Church once stood near Pisgah and Highway 104. The church was torn down between 1971 and 1972, but the adjoining cemetery, founded in 1830, remains.

Among the 21 family members buried here are Joseph and Celah (Sweeney) Waters, my 5G-grandparents. According to the Find-a-Grave website, Joseph actually owned 80 acres adjacent to the cemetery, and descendants continue to live there.  Joseph, son of Isaac and Kitty (Hawker) Waters, was born January 4, 1773 in Montgomery County, Maryland. He married Celah Sweeney, daughter of Moses and Elizabeth (Johnson) Sweeney on November 27, 1798 in Stanford, Kentucky. Celah was born June 2, 1782 in Amherst County, Virginia. Joseph and Celah had some 15 children between 1799 and 1825, and both died in Morgan County, Illinois – Joseph on March 10, 1842, and Celah on September 18, 1845. Their daughter Cassandra (Waters) Murphy, my 4G-grandmother, is supposedly buried in this cemetery as well, though we did not succeed in finding her headstone on our pilgrimage. Maybe next time.

Those Places Thursday – Innvik

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One of my many ancestral homelands is the small (population 378) village of Innvik, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway.  Innvik means “inner bay” in Norwegian; the original spelling of the name was Indviken and was in use by the 15th century.

Our earliest known connection to this village was the February 1760 birth of my 5th great grandfather, Anders Torgjersen Aaland, and that of his wife Ragnilde Christensdatter around 1766. Anders’s birth on the Haga Farm appears as the fourth entry on the following record from the Digitalarkivet website:

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Anders and Ragnilde married July 7, 1786 and had nine children.  Their sixth child was Arne Andersen Aland, born in 1799.  He and his wife Ingeborg Svensdatter had a daughter Synneve, and a son, Svend Arneson Roberg.  Svend was born June 2, 1824 and married another Synneve: Synneve Arnesdatter.  Svend and Synneve had six children; the second was my great-great-grandfather, Anders Mathis Roberg.  Several of the Roberg children emigrated to the U.S.; Anders and his brother Arne both emigrated in 1875.  Three years later Anders married another Norwegian, Agnette Evansdatter Lien, eleven years his senior. Agnette had a child, Emil Martin, from a previous marriage; and she and Anders had three children of their own: Severin, Sophie (my great-grandmother), and Sena.

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