Sibling Saturday – Unlock the Bathroom Door, George!


One of my earliest memories is of the time my family lived in Coventry, Rhode Island. The day I’m remembering would have happened in 1958, about a year after this picture of my baby brother and me was taken.

Once George had grown out of infancy, he was a mischievous little fellow, and one day he somehow locked himself in the house’s one bathroom, which I discovered when I couldn’t get the door open.

I yelled for my mother because I had to go, and she stood outside the door and tried to explain to George how to turn the lever below the doorknob. She must have thought that since his stubby little fingers had managed to lock it, his stubby little fingers should be able to unlock it.

Nothing but a stream of giggles came from behind the locked door. At that point, I was shrieking because I HAD TO GO, and my mother went next door to get help in the form of a neighbor’s young son, who wriggled through the bathroom window and unlocked the door.

Liz & The Little Neighbor Boy Who Saved the Day

Oh, No–More Browns!


One of the sources of information about my ancestors who were among the first settlers of Hampton, New Hampshire is a reference titled, The Hampton Browns by Asa Warren Brown. According to my mother’s documentation, he was a descendant of our progenitor, John Brown (~1595-1686). However, he is not on our family tree, which only includes our patrilinial line.

I became curious about who this Asa Brown was when I found among my grandfather’s papers a copy of an article he’d authored in the October 27, 1851 edition of the Exeter News Letter. In the last paragraph of the article, he passes judgment on a particular branch of the Brown family with a degree of snark I wouldn’t normally associate with a historian.  (I’ll share it with readers of this blog in due time.)

Being a long-time connoisseur of snark myself, I hit Google Books to find out more. The first search result came back with a chapter Asa had authored in The New England Historical and Genecalogical [Sic] Register, entitled “The Hampton Brown Family.” To my dismay, I found more early descendants of John Brown. And now that I’ve found them, I feel obligated to add them to our family tree. (Didn’t I say something previously about not caring about The Begats?)

After doing a little more digging to see if I could put my hands on a copy of The Hampton Browns, I learned that it’s manuscript, rather than a book. In any event, I’m still on the hunt for Asa.

hamptonbrownsworldcat hamptonbrownsasa


Hannah M. Brown (~1831 1860): Killed at Prayer

killedatprayerMuch has been written about the history of Hampton, New Hampshire, where my progenitor John Brown (~1595-1686) settled upon landing in Salem, Massachusetts after emigrating from London, England in 1635. One of the sources my mother relied on when she wrote her history of our Brown ancestors was Joseph Dow’s History of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement In 1638, to the Autumn of 1892, which I wrote about last week.

Today I did a search in Dow’s history of Hampton looking for any mention of my 10x great-grandfather. Knowing that searching for as common a name as “John Brown” is fraught with opportunities for error, I came across this account of a “Mrs. John Brown” who had been struck by lightning and killed:

August 8, 1860, the Marston house, the paternal homestead of Mrs. Uri Lamprey, who inherited it, was struck by lightning and injured beyond repair. “The lightning struck on the west end, near the roof, and ran down to the ground, ripping off the clapboards, passing out and in, and completely riddling the end of the building. A child, abed in one of the chambers whose walls were shattered, miraculously escaped uninjured.” Mrs. John Brown, an Irish tenant, was killed, at prayer. Having just remarked that, if she must die by lightning she would die praying, she dropped upon her knees. While in that attitude, the bolt fell. The house was built in 1690.1

It’s not clear from this passage whether the wife of John Brown was Irish or whether John Brown himself was Irish. Further on in the book, in the “Genealogical” section, I learned that the parents of the John Brown whose wife had been killed were born in Ireland, so he would not have been one of the many descendants of my progenitor who had settled in Hampton, New Hampshire.2


No Relation, But of Still of Interest

I found Hannah’s estimated birth year of 1831 on Family Search.3 Her death certificate provides surprisingly little information except to confirm August 8, 1860 as the date of her death and “Killed by Lightning” as the cause.4


A little research on Family Search suggests that the John Brown to whom Hannah was married was John R. Brown, born in Ireland about 1820. The date of death matches Dow’s history, as does his father’s name of John and his mother’s first name of Julia.  Although his mother’s maiden name is listed on his death certificate as “Ragan” rather than “Reagan,” I suspect they are alternate spellings of the same name.

John R. Brown’s death certificate lists his occupation as “Farmer” and his cause of death as “Found Frozen.”5


I’ve put the circumstances of Hannah M. Brown’s death on my research list to see if I can find a newspaper account of it. I question whether it happened with the degree of dramatic irony  reported in Dow’s history.

I’d also like to find a newspaper account of John’s death. His cause of death suggests that he was working on the farm in bad weather, became incapacitated, and was unable to make it back to the house. The circumstance reminds me of the chilling short story, “The Metal Sky,” by Ervin Krause, about a farmer who is working alone in his field and becomes trapped beneath his tractor when it overturns.

1 Joseph Dow and Lucy Dow, History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement In 1638, to the Autumn of 1892 (Salem, MA: Salem Press, 1893), 332.

2Dow, 630.

3“New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 December 2014), Hannah M Brown, 08 Aug 1860; citing , Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,062.

4“New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 December 2014), Hannah M Brown, 08 Aug 1860; citing , Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,062.

5“New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 December 2014), John R Brown, 20 Mar 1885; citing Hampton, Bureau Vital Records and Health Statistics, Concord; FHL microfilm 1,001,062.


Another Historian Dead Before Finishing His Book?!

Remember J. Bailey Moore, who died while at the arduous task of writing History of the Town of Candia?  Well, here’s another New Hampshire historian who died before he could finish his magnum opus.


Joseph Dow (b. 1807) was in the midst of writing A History of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement In 1638, to the Autumn of 1892, when he died in 1889. His daughter Lucy set about making sense of her father’s research to complete the book, which was published in 1893.

As far as my making sense of Dow’s genealogical research, there are–count ’em–no fewer than 268 mentions in his book of people with the surname “Brown.” Talk about making your head hurt–particularly considering they all had the same dozen or so first names that were just continuously recycled from one generation to the next.

I think my best bet here would be to pinpoint the first years that the descendants of my John Brown progenitor (~1595-1686) were born in Kensington and Candia after the family began migrating west, as well as the last of his direct descendants to die in Hampton. Hopefully, that process of elimination will help me identify mentions of direct ancestors in Dow’s history.

At some point in the future, I suppose I could try to figure out who was who of my distant Brown relatives in Dow’s history, but I fear the arduous nature of the task would lead to my premature demise.