Dennis’ 400 sea captains earned their living upon the waves of the world. Their journeys took them to faraway lands inhabited by exotic peoples. Years, sometimes a good part of a decade would go by before they returned home to see family and friends. Yet this is the life they chose. Perhaps the spray and smell and salt of the ocean was in their blood, calling them from the rooted land to journey upon the rising and falling waves of the sea. ~ Jack Sheedy (Dennis Journal)
My grandmother loved telling me stories about her own grandfather and often reminded me that the sea was in my blood. I’m pretty sure it was this sea captain who took his second wife with him on a few of his voyages and bought her a “monkey” in some foreign land. Apparently the creature was a “holy terror” on the ship but she adored him.
My 2nd-great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died there 8 April 1928. He married (as his first wife) 5 July 1874 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman, who was born 4 September 1851 in Harwich, and died there 4 October 1876, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman.
Martin was named after his father, a Norwegian immigrant, and followed in his footsteps, becoming a Master Mariner and captain of the schooner Nellie Lamphear. He also served on coasting vessels, tug boats, and was licensed to enter any port in the world. In 1910 he was elected port warden of Boston by the Boston Marine Society, the oldest association of sea captains in the world.
Elisabeth was a homemaker and died of a “stoppage” when she was only 25 years old. Her baby son Martin Freeman was only 18 months old. She lies buried in the older Thompson plot with her in-laws in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis Port. Her gravestone is inscribed:
Fled O forever from our view A dear daughter, wife and mother, too: She was a treasure lent, not given: To be called away from Earth to Heaven. Life to her looked bright and joyous And her home was very dear: To the summons of her Savior, She gently yielded without fear.
The 1880 census indicates that, now a widower, Martin was living with his parents and his young son. Five years after Lizzie’s death, Martin married (as his second wife) her younger sister, Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, 23 February 1882 in Dennis. Rosie was born 6 March 1856 in Harwich, and died 18 March 1923, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman. Martin & Rosie had no children. In 1900, Martin and Rosilla were living as lodgers in the house of Nancy H. Merrill in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Martin owned a beloved horse named Nellie (named after his schooner or vice versa?) who lived in the barn at 114 Depot St. in Dennis. He gave his granddaughter, my grandmother, her first three cars. According to my grandfather, Martin and his granddaughter Thommie worshiped each other. The first car was a Model T that had to have the carbon scraped every week. The next was a 2-door sedan Model T. Martin lies buried with his second wife, Rosilla, in the newer Thompson plot in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis Port.
Elisabeth & Martin Edward were the parents of one son:
1. Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson (my great-grandfather), born 29 March 1875 in Harwich, died 13 July 1965 in Dennis. He married 1 February 1900 in Dennis, Amanda Eliza Hamblin, who was born there 2 August 1879 and died 6 July 1966 in Taunton (Bristol) Massachusetts, daughter of Capt. William Nelson and Anna Eliza (Baker) Hamblin. Martin & Amanda were the parents of one daughter.
In 1964 my grandparents inherited and moved into Martin’s house at 114 Depot Street in Dennis Port, along with my great-grandparents, who they were caring for. Some of our happiest family memories were made there. My dear cousin Matthew bought the house in 2001 after our grandfather died. He renovated the place, keeping its historical integrity and was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Dennis Historical Commission in 2005. Sadly, the house had to be sold in 2009.
The decade of the 1850s was truly an incredible period in seafaring history. Clipper ships sailed the world’s oceans, bringing back fortunes and treasures from faraway lands to Cape Cod, and the town of Dennis. And some of the ships playing a part in this history were built right down the road at Sesuit Harbor. These vessels, built by East Dennis hands, outraced pirates, battled typhoons, and carried their cargoes to their Dennis homes. And some just seemed to fall off the edge of the world, their crews never to be heard from again. ~ Jack Sheedy (Dennis Journal)
My 3rd-great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Thompson, son of Hans Mathias Tønnesen and Dorothea Larsdatter Strømtan, was born 23 July 1818 in Brevik (Telemark) Norway as Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, and died 22 October 1896 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) after 2 July 1849 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Ann Isabella Hughes, who was born 6 January 1830 in Ireland, and died 16 May 1885.
Ingebrigt was vaccinated on 18 September 1832 in Brevik by Dr. Schmidt. [In 1995, my brother-in-law John located the birth record for Ingebrigt Martinus in the regional archives in Kongsberg, Norway.] According to naturalization papers, Ingebrigt arrived in America in the port of Philadelphia on 10 June 1837, and filed a Declaration of Intention in New York City 6 April 1848. The naturalization was processed by the Boston Municipal Court and he became an American citizen 17 April 1854. According to his great-granddaughter, my grandmother, Martin came to America to help test steamships which were just becoming commercially useful.
By 1850 the newly married couple was living in Dennis and Martin worked as a mariner, master mariner and sea-captain and had accumulated some wealth by 1870, claiming real estate valued at $4000 and a personal estate of $8000. On 2 March 1866, while Martin was captain of the Schooner Niger, two Swiss sailors with the same name attempted to land in a boat from the schooner but capsized and drowned. On May 13 the body of John P. Erixson was picked up on the shore of Harwich Port and on May 14 the body of John Erixson came on shore close to the same spot. John had sailed with Capt. Thompson for about 4 years and boarded with him and Mrs. Nehemiah Wixon. The sailors were buried together in Swan Lake Cemetery.
I have not been able to identify Ann’s Irish parents. She died of a tumor when she was 55 years old. The following is from Saints’ Herald Obituaries, 1885, p. 426:
Ann L. (Thompson) was baptized and confirmed a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 30 September 1874 at Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts, by C. N. Brown.
Birth Date: About 1830 Death Date: May 1885 Death Place: Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts Spouse: Captain Thompson
Martin married (as his second wife and as her second husband) 1 February 1887 Frances Jemima (Turner) Turner, his housekeeper, who was born about 1848 in England, daughter of James Turner and Jemima Frances (Best) (Turner) Tyrode, and widow of John Turner. After Martin & Frances married Frances was able to bring her 18-year-old daughter over from England. Her daughter by her first husband was Eugenie Helene Maud Turner (1869-1939). By this time Martin had settled down as a merchant, and at the time he died he owned a spice store, his occupation being noted as trader. Apparently he left most of his estate to Frances and her daughter.
Martin died of bronchitis, at the age of 78. His will was written 24 March 1890 and proved 8 December 1896. Martin & Ann are buried together in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis. The inscriptions on their tombstones are identical:
Rest till the morn Of the resurrection, When we hope to Meet thee.
Ann & Martin were the parents of three children:
1. Capt. Martin Edward Thompson (my 2nd-great-grandfather), born 4 August 1850 in Dennis, died 1928. He married (as his first wife) 5 July 1874 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman, who was born 4 September 1851 in Harwich, and died there 4 October 1876, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman. Martin & Elisabeth were the parents of one son. Martin married (as his second wife) 23 February 1882 in Dennis, Elizabeth’s younger sister, Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, who was born 6 March 1856 in Harwich, and died 18 March 1923, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman. Martin & Rosilla did not have any children.
2. John “Hanse Ingebrath” Thompson, born 19 June 1853 in Dennis, died 1917. John was also a mariner and was named after his grandfather, Hans Tønnesen and his 2nd great-grandfather, Engelbret Olsen. He married (as his first wife) Thankful M. (—). John married (as his second wife) 13 February 1881 in Harwich, Etta Lee Kelley, who was born 1858 in Dennis and died 1929, daughter of Joseph and Barbara A. (—) Kelley. According to my grandmother, Uncle John had quite the temper, and made a big impression on her when he threw a frying pan out of the window, shouting out after it emphatically: “I said that there will be no onions fried in this house!!!!” John, Etta and their daughter Annie are buried with John’s parents in Swan Lake Cemetery.
3. Anna Thompson, born about 1863 and probably died young. She was in her parents household and attending school in 1870, when she was 7 years old.
Cousins marrying cousins, close or distant, was very common on Cape Cod and throughout New England, which makes figuring out relationships tricky but utterly fascinating. I’ve tried my best to figure out the tangled roots and shoots from my 3rd-great-grandparents!
Warren Freeman, a watchmaker, son of Thomas and Roxanna (Cash) Freeman, was born 25 July 1814 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died there 16 September 1894. He married (as his second wife) 12 June 1848 in Harwich, his double fourth cousin, Elisabeth Weekes, who was born 6 November 1822 in Harwich, and died there 18 September 1908, daughter of Isaac and Elisabeth (Allen) Weekes.
Warren married (as his first wife) in December 1836, his double fourth cousin, Priscilla E. Long, who was born 22 October 1817 and died 7 December 1846 in Harwich, daughter of Isaac and Esther (Ellis) Long. Warren & Priscilla shared two sets of 3rd-great-grandparents, Joshua and Mary (Cole) Hopkins and Edward and Mary (Woodman) Small.
A year and a half after Priscilla died, Warren married Elisabeth, Priscilla’s half third cousin. Elisabeth’s and Priscilla’s great-grandmothers, Hannah (Paine) Allen and Jane (Small) Long, were half sisters, both daughters of Hannah (Hopkins) (Paine) Smalley by two different fathers.
Warren & Elisabeth were also double fourth cousins, sharing the same two sets of 3rd-great-grandparents, Joshua and Mary (Cole) Hopkins and Edward and Mary (Woodman) Small.
On the 1870 Federal Census, Warren was recorded as living in Dennis Port, age 55, a “huckster”, with real estate valued at $5000 and a personal state of $3000. Warren is buried with both his wives and two of his children in the First Congregational Church Cemetery in Harwich.
Priscilla & Warren were the parents of two children:
1. Thomas Freeman, a blacksmith who was born 15 August 1837 in Harwich. He married Rosilla F. Allen.
2. Clemantina Freeman, born 26 March 1842 in Harwich, died 24 May 1858, age 16. Clemantina was buried next to her mother, Priscilla E. (Long) Freeman, in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
Elisabeth & Warren were the parents of five children (all born in Harwich), but they only had one grandchild together, and only one great-grandchild:
1. Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman (my 2nd-great-grandmother), born 4 September 1851, died 4 October 1876 in Harwich, age 25. She married 5 July 1874 in Harwich, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, who was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis and died in 1928, son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson. When Elisabeth died her 18-month-old son was left without his mother. She lies buried in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis.
2. Warren Wallace Freeman, born 3 July 1853, died 27 August 1868, age 15. Warren lies buried with his parents in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
3. Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, born 6 March 1856, died 18 March 1923, age 67. She married 23 February 1882 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, who was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis and died in 1928, widower of her sister, Elisabeth, and son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson. Rosie raised her nephew but never had children of her own. She also lies buried in Swan Lake Cemetery.
4. Ambrose Eldridge Freeman, born 21 April 1858, died 1944 in Boston, age 83. Ambrose was a confirmed bachelor with a fondness for alcohol. His little child’s rocking chair was given to Jonathan Freeman Rodgers by his great-grandmother, Emma Freeman (Thompson) White, who was Ambrose’s grandniece. The gift was made following a little episode in Jonathan’s young toddler life. One day his mother, absent mindedly kept giving him sips of a “Cape Codder” cocktail she was enjoying with her grandparents. His great-grandmother was the first to notice that Jon was getting a little tipsy, and made the observation that he was the spit and image of Uncle Ambrose! Ambrose lies buried with his parents in the First Congregational Church Cemetery.
5. Susan Flora “Susie” Freeman, born 22 March 1864, died 7 May 1963 at Woods Hole, age 99. She married 19 February 1891, Edward Ellsworth “Eddie” Swift, who was born 25 August 1861 in Falmouth (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died in May 1964, age 102, son of Ezekiel Eldridge and Lucy G. (Thompson) Swift.
Susie & Eddie lived at 10 School St., Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They had no children so my grandparents (along with my great-grandparents) moved into their house and cared for them there in their old age. My grandmother was Susie’s (Flora’s) grandniece. I well remember playing as a very small child in the yard there while visiting my grandparents and great-grandparents and 2nd great-granduncle and aunt! The lawn stretched down a hill to a harbor (perhaps a marina?), and the barns were full of sea crafts. Uncle Ed lived to be 102, and died when I was 7 years old.
In the picture above, I am being held by my 2nd great-granduncle Ed! By the time I was 2, Uncle Ed was bedridden and my grandmother would put me on his bed for a visit. Uncle Ed would ask, “And how old are you, Barbara?” I would bravely hold up two fingers while staring at his long white beard.
The following is from the Cape Cod Standard Times:
Falmouth Pair Married 70 Years [PHOTO] Caption: Mr. and Mrs. Edward E. Swift of Woods Hole show their marriage certificate dated Feb. 19, 1891. The Swifts are looking forward to their 70th anniversary celebration, to be shared with family and friends.
Swifts to Observe 70th Anniversary by Robert G. Elphick, Cape Cod Standard Times Staff Writer
WOODS HOLE, Feb. 3–A candy sailing ship shall cruise across a pastry map of Cape Cod, atop a cake to be baked in affectionate observance of a very rare occasion. The 70th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Ellsworth Swift of School Street. Mrs. Carlyle R. Hayes of Middle Street, locally noted cake baker and old friend of the Swifts, will have the masterpiece ready for the anniversary observance on Feb. 19.
Mr. Swift will be 100 years old on Aug. 25. Mrs. Swift will be 97 next month. Though confined to their antique-and-memory filled home overlooking Eel Pond, they remain articulate, cheerful and endowed with quick humor and ready memory.
“I used to sail a lot,” Mr. Swift recalled, citing trophies in Class B, for skill and speed with the 13-foot spritsail boats. While on the subject of boats and ships, he said his great uncle Elijah Swift ran the British blockade during the War of 1812, and in more peaceful times planted the elms that today tower above Falmouth’s Village Green.
Were Shipbuilders “Both my grandfathers were ship builders,” Mr. Swift added. Ezekiel Swift, he said, built whaling ships in Woods Hole, and Marshall Grew built other wooden ships for iron men in New Bedford.
Mrs. Swift is the former Flora Susan Freeman of Harwich. The Swift’s wedding certificate, larger and more elaborate than those issued today, states that the pair were married by the Rev. R. M. Wilkins, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church on Feb. 19, 1891, in South Harwich. The 70th anniversary observance will be at the Swift’s home, and will be limited to family and close friends.
Family includes the Swift’s grandniece, Mrs. John E. White, who came from West Harwich last September to care for the Swifts and her parents, Captain and Mrs. Martin Thompson. The Thompsons came to live with the Swifts five years ago.
Captain Thompson is a nephew of Mr. Swift. Until recently he has helped to run the hardware and ship’s chandler’s shop at the rear of the Swift’s home. The antique wooden sign over the shop entrance reads “Edward E. Swift, Dealer in Hardware, Cordage, Paints, Oil, Glass, and Galvanized Nails and Specialty.” The shop is rarely opened any more. Like the Swifts themselves, it is a survivor from another age.
Mrs. White said she is happy to be able to live with the Swifts and her parents and take care of them. “My parents observed their 61st wedding anniversary Wednesday,” Mrs. White commented. “My son is in the service and my daughter is at the University of Connecticut, so I have no one else to care for now, except my husband, of course. He’s a land surveyor and commutes daily to his office in West Harwich.”
Presented Symbol In 1956 Falmouth selectmen presented Mr. Swift with the cane marking him as the town’s oldest native resident. It was reported at the time that this was “a distinction that greatly pleased him.” The canes were made available to all Massachusetts towns many years ago by a Boston newspaper, to be handed down from one senior citizen to another.
“I enjoy books very much these days,” Mr. Swift commented. Each night Mr. and Mrs. White take turns reading aloud to the Swifts. “We are on Washington Irving now,” Mrs. White interjected. “Next we will do Dickens.”
Mr. Swift recalled that his middle name of Ellsworth was in honor of a relative who was serving at the time in the Civil War. He also remembered that he was born in Shiverick House when it was located in the parking lot that adjoins his present home–a short move to make in a century. He was graduated from Lawrence Academy, now the Falmouth USO and Legion Hall. In 1880, he then joined his father as E. Swift and Son, contractors, and in 1882 built the former Fay residence, now owned by the Oceanographic Institution. He also built the Congregational Church in Woods Hole during the 1880s, as well as many other structures long since passed into oblivion.
Open Shop The elder Swift died in 1909. The business was continued by his son until a shortage of labor and materials in World War I ended building operations. Mr. Swift remembers that we then opened his ship chandler’s shop at the rear of his home and has operated it until recent years, most recently with the assistance of Captain Thompson.
Mr. Swift was for many years clerk of the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole, and remains today as clerk emeritus. A frequent visitor is the rector, the Rev. Mason Wilson. Additional friends will certainly be on hand Feb. 19 to mark a very special occasion and incidentally share in the enjoyment of a very special cake.
The following is from the WHOI [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute] Historic Structures Survey, Swift House, 10 School St, constructed 1834, acquired by WHOI 1965:
Ezekiel Swift built the house and its two barns around 1834. The house was handed down through the years from his son, to his grandson, Eddie Swift, who was a well known character in Woods Hole. Eddie and his father formalized the family carpentry trade into a business known as E. E. Swift and Son in the late 1800s. The family building business survived until Eddie decided to open a hardware store in the barn behind the house. Eddie, who lived to be 103, and the hardware store survived into the 1960s. WHOI purchased the property on New Year’s Eve of 1964 and has used both the house and the barns since then. The house has served as offices for the Applied Oceanography group, now Ocean Engineering, and as home for other elements of departments.
The following is from a sign by a Woods Hole Spritsail Boat made by Edward Swift, donated to Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut, by Mr. & Mrs. John E. White:
Never launched or given her final coats of paint, this craft was built about 1910, and between that time and 1968 when it was given to this museum, the boat and the shop in which she was built were left essentially undisturbed, thus her pristine condition. Additional information is contained in the adjoining article excerpted from Skipper magazine. Length 13’4”, Beam 6′. Those Handy Little BCats by H.V.R. Palmer, Jr.
I’ve been on a journey of discovery this winter, making use of Ancestry’s powerful search engine to add more and more branches to our family trees. Part of the excitement comes from finding new distant cousins through DNA matching. And a cousin, who I haven’t seen in many years, recently submitted her DNA sample to Ancestry. When I popped up as her genetic first cousin she contacted me and said, “I guess it works!”
But the search engine at Ancestry is constantly rummaging through the paper trail, too. It searches hundreds of databases, periodicals and books, some of which I never would have dreamed of looking at. A couple of weeks ago a little leaf (a hint) popped up next to the profile of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, who was born in Ireland in 1830, came to America, and then married my 3rd-great-grandfather, sea captain Martin Thompson, the Norwegian ancestor (born Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen) who I’m always going on about.
I’ve never found the identity of Ann’s parents and my few attempts to research her origins have never been successful. The only thing I knew about her was a story I had been told about her religion. She lies buried with her husband in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis on Cape Cod. I was told she was Catholic and that Martin’s relatives wanted her body removed from the Protestant family’s plot. Martin’s second wife was born in England and sometimes I wonder if she was the “relative” who wanted Ann’s body disinterred.
So then, imagine how startled I was when I followed the “hint” to a publication called Saints’ Herald Obituaries, 1885, p. 426 and read the following:
Ann L. (Thompson) was baptized and confirmed a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on 30 September 1874 at Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts, by C. N. Brown.
Birth Date: About 1830 Death Date: May 1885 Death Place: Dennisport, Barnstable, Massachusetts Spouse: Captain Thompson
Religious differences are forever popping up on our family tree. And many of our ancestors have changed religions, sometimes later in life. Ann was 44 when she did so. I am more and more convinced there is something in our DNA, traveling down the through the ages, stirring up conflict in almost every generation.
But until now it has always been the men I’ve found stories about. I’ve often wondered what my female ancestors were thinking and believing. If they disagreed with their husbands did they keep their thoughts locked up inside? Finding out about Ann’s conversion was so remarkable because she is the first female ancestor I have found who apparently believed differently than her husband and had the gumption to follow her own spiritual path.
Brevik is the place in Norway I most wanted to see. My grandmother’s sea-captain great-grandfather, Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, was born there in 1818 and emigrated to America by himself in 1836. As far as I can tell, his parents, five brothers and two sisters remained in Norway. Was he a rebellious teen? Or simply restless, adventurous? His grandfather was a ship’s carpenter, his father and four uncles, all sailors. According to Wikipedia, Brevik is thought to be one of the best preserved towns from the sailing ship era.
Brevik is now part of Porsgrunn in the county of Telemark. The Brevik Bridge (Breviksbrua) in the background (above) goes over the mouth of Frierfjord to Stathelle, which is part of Bamble. It was opened in 1962.
We arrived in the evening, much later than planned because our plane was delayed and it took forever to pick up the rental car. But the two-hour ride from Oslo was beautiful, the scenery lovely. Because the sun sets so late we were still able to stop for dinner and explore the town afterwards.
The restaurant we found was Sjøloftet (above). Brevik isn’t a tourist destination per se, but we found that our server spoke English and was even able to find and dust off 4 menus translated into English. The place was naturally full of talkative locals and it was nice to just sit back and absorb the sound of the language and imagine, while looking out the window over the water, what life was like here 200 years ago.
The roads going up and down the sides of the fjord in town were very steep!
There were sailboats and motorboats tucked into every possible mooring.
A switchback road can be seen to the left of and behind this building.
Sleepy little seaside village…
The asymmetrical Grenland Bridge (Grenlandsbrua) (above) is new, opened in 1996. According to Wikipedia, it “is Norway’s highest cable-stayed bridge with a tower height of 168 metres (551 ft) … when built, it replaced Brevik Bridge as the primary route across the fjord … the 608-metre (1,995 ft) long bridge uses cable stayed construction to provide clearance for vessels up to 50 metres (164 ft) in height.”
Inadvertently we wound up going across the bridge! We were going through a tunnel and it came out right onto the bridge! I suppose it was inevitable as we were exploring the higher elevations of the town. But we made a u-turn and crossed back to Brevik. We actually got pretty confused exploring the town. Some of the streets were very steep and had surprise dead-ends!
This little part of town is tucked under the older Brevik Bridge.
One of the dead-ends we came upon. It was fun (and a little embarrassing) having to do a 20-point turn with the rental car to back out of there…
When we found the correct tunnel to leave Brevik we had to wait and then follow a leader car through it because only one lane was open. We didn’t see any flagmen in Norway where there was roadwork being done. Everyone just waited patiently until the leader car was done leading the opposing line of traffic through and then turned around and signaled for them to follow.
Satisfied to have seen the place where my ancestor started his journey, we headed for Skien to spend our first night in Norway.
It seems to happen every year in the month of May – the ancestors begin calling again – do some more research, they beckon from the past, do some more research… It begins around Mothers Day, so I am convinced my late mother is egging them on.
In the late 1990s after years of hunting, I found a record of a second marriage for my Norwegian ancestor, Martin Thompson. He had married his housekeeper late in life and after his first wife died, a fact I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning before. Anyhow, my grandfather had told me that Thompson was Americanized from what sounded like (and turned out to be) Tønnesen. This marriage record said that Martin’s parents were John and Dorothy and that he was born 23 July 1818 in Brevig, Norway. John and Dorothy??? Didn’t sound at all Norwegian to me…
Meanwhile, my sister and brother-in-law were living in Sweden and my brother-in-law offered to hop over to Norway to do some research for me, something he excels at. He found that Brevig is now Brevik, a little seaside town in the county of Telemark, and sure enough, Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, my 3rd-great-grandfather, who became Martin Thompson in America, was born there on 23 July 1818 to Hans Tønnesen & Dorothea Larsdatter. (John & Dorothy!) None of them were using surnames, they were all recorded with patronymics. Hans and his four brothers were sailors, and their father, my 5th-great-grandfather, Tønnes Ingebretsen, was a ship’s carpenter.
And that’s about where the trail ended for more than a few years…
But now through the magic of the internet and Ancestry.com, yesterday I traced back to my 6th-great-grandmother, Anna Dorothea Torbiornsdatter, who was born in 1735 in Arendal, a seaside town south of Brevik, in the county of Aust-Agder. I wonder what her life was like. She gave birth to six children, and the firstborn, Anne Lisbeth, died in infancy so her name was given again to the next baby. Then came Ole, Tønnes (my 5th-great-grandfather), Kirstine and Nicolai. Tønnes is the one who was born in Arendal and relocated to Brevik, where he died. There is so much more I want to know about Anna Dorothea – for some reason, she is the one calling me now!
Still enjoying our apples, sometimes two a day. Maybe I’ll make some more apple crisp today. I found an apple poem and still another picture of Iduna. I love the little deer next to Iduna. I was looking for deer paintings when this one turned up in the search, reminding me that apple season is not yet over.
Saturday was Leif Erikson Day and Tuesday will be Columbus Day, but Monday will be the official holiday. Traditionally we used to go leaf peeping in Vermont or New Hampshire for the three-day weekend. But Tim has to work tomorrow so we’re not going anywhere and will have to content ourselves with a little leaf peeping next weekend here in Connecticut, when the color show will hopefully be peaking! Peeking and peeping at the peaking fall colors…
Looked up the definition of the title of the following Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, Recuerdo. It means memory, souvenir, or memento. Tim’s out getting coffee, breakfast, and the Sunday morning paper. My head is spinning with plans and ideas. Very tired after our trip to a museum yesterday, yet very merry. Domestic autumn bliss…
We were very tired, we were very merry— We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable — But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table, We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon; And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry — We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry; And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear, From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere; And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold, And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry, We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry. We hailed “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head, And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read; And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears, And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
This American stamp commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first organized emigration from Norway to the United States. Fifty-two Norwegians crowded onto the ship Restauration which sailed from Stavanger, Norway on July 5, 1825, and arrived in New York on October 9, 1825, where the captain was arrested and fined for having too many passengers on board for the size of his ship. What a welcome! My ancestor, Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, who became Martin Thompson, arrived in Philadelphia almost twelve years later, on June 10, 1837.
Although no one knows the exact day Leif Erikson (Leivur Eiriksson) set foot on North American soil, it was about 500 years before Christopher Columbus did. The Faroe Islands, part of Denmark, lie between the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and between Norway and Iceland. They also issued a stamp recognizing Leif Erikson’s explorations.
Yesterday my heart and mind were out on Cape Cod, watching and waiting to see what Hurricane Earl would do as it passed by. It was also the day my grandmother died, fourteen years ago, at the age of 90. It was a good day for lingering over pleasant memories.
Grandmother was a typical Cape Codder. As far as I know, all of her ancestors lived out their lives on Cape Cod, or were lost at sea, all of them descending from passengers on the Mayflower and other early English settlers on the Cape. Except for her great-grandfather, who came from Norway, and his wife, her great-grandmother, who came from Ireland. Both of her grandfathers and her father were sea captains, like their fathers before them. Grandmother told me all the time that the sea was in my blood.
Thankfully New England was spared Earl’s fury as the storm kept veering off to the east and weakening. We were very happy to make do without any more excitement! We went down to the beach during a break in the rain and there was some minor flooding from a little storm surge. Normally there is about twenty feet between the life guard chair and the water’s edge, but now the breaking waves came right up to the chair. (See photo above.) We were wondering about the line of birds hunkered down on the rocks in the distance. Couldn’t make out what they were. The breakwaters were almost covered with water.
But all in all, Hurricane Earl was a non-event.
I love this picture of my grandmother’s father, Capt. Martin F. Thompson (Pop), and her granduncle, Edward E. Swift (Uncle Ed), who lived to the age of 102. It was taken in Woods Hole in front of the hardware and ship’s chandler’s shop they used to run behind the Swifts’ house.
The sign used to read: “Edward E. Swift, Dealer in Hardware, Cordage, Paints, Oil, Glass, and Galvanized Nails and Specialty.”
Uncle Ed used to build and race 13-foot spritsail boats. After Uncle Ed died in 1964, my grandmother donated one of the spritsails he built to Mystic Seaport, a living history museum here in Connecticut, where it is still exhibited.
After spending many years caring for her children and then her parents and Uncle Ed & Aunt Flora, Grandmother spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests in nature photography and entomology. The little picture of me on the beach (in the sidebar on this blog) was taken by my grandmother. My grandparents were founding members of the Cape Cod Viewfinders Camera Club. The subjects of most of Grandmother’s photos were, of course, bugs…
While she was an artist and I have several of her watercolors hanging on my walls, more than anything she loved capturing perfectly composed photographs of butterfly eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and emerging adults. Grandfather was a land surveyor and Grandmother would go out with him on surveys and find the butterfly and moth eggs of various species and bring them home on their leaves and then put them in outdoor aquariums in her back yard. She made sure each one had the right leaves for its diet, and they were free to fly away after they emerged. Each time I visited I got a grand tour of her latest collection.
Often she would warn us as we sat down to dinner that someone was due to emerge from its cocoon or chrysalis at any moment and that we would have to excuse her if she had to dash away from the table to photograph the event. She was very proper, but also very mischievous. Once when my father was teasing her at the breakfast table, she got him back by impishly buttering the back of his hand. She never lost her sense of wonder and curiosity and I loved her so much for bringing lots of magic into my childhood.
It was so much fun having my grandmother as my first and best pen pal. Even though we made the trip to Cape Cod to see my grandparents about once a month, we’d exchange letters once or twice a week. We both loved reading and writing… I still have her newsy letters, and later was delighted to discover that she had kept all of mine.
The picture to the right is of my great-grandmother, Amanda Eliza Hamblin (Mum) and my grandmother, Emma Freeman “Thommie” Thompson. Amanda’s father was a sea captain, too. Thompson was the surname chosen by my ancestor, Martin Thompson, who was born in Brevik, Norway in 1818. At birth his name was Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, and he was the son of Hans Tønnesen. He Americanized Tønnesen to Thompson when he arrived in America, a month before his 19th birthday.
My sister illustrated (with little sailboats and seagulls) a poem I wrote at a very early age, which we gave as a gift to our grandmother, who framed it and kept it hanging in her breakfast nook. It went something like this:
I love Cape Cod Oh yes I do. The sea, the sand, Grandmother, too. I love the Cape So much, don’t you?