Category: The Wilsons (page 1 of 2)

Scotch-Irish of Maine in the 1700’s

Note: this chapter of The Uncommonly Common is about the Maine Scotch-Irish and their early life in Maine.

In trying to imagine what life must have been in the early 1700s, I found In trying to imagine what life must have been in the early 1700s, I found the Wheelers’ History of Topsham, Brunswick and Harpswell helpful with insights into our ancestors lives. We do know that when James Wilson, his wife Jean and children arrived there was almost nothing.

“In Brunswick…there were in 1718 no dwelling places for the families, except within the walls of the fort…A little before that time, three families settle in Topsham; all of whom were afterwards destroyed in Lovewell’s war.”1 The Wilsons may have arrived in 1719, only a year later. The Indian wars heated up in 1722 and we see Jean leaving the area with the children immediately afterwards.

Families lived far apart initially and only could travel by water as there were no inland avenues.

These Scotch Irish “were usually called “ wild Irish” by the native New-Englanders. It is said of these early settlers that “they used to peek out through a crack or partly opened door, to see whether their callers were friends or foes, and that the same habit of peeking out through a half-open door to see whom their callers may be, is noticed to this day in their descendants.” These settlers were nearly all poor, and often suffered for the necessaries of life. They had to work hard for their living, and dress in the plainest manner.”2 

They were understandably not happy: “During the period embraced by the Indian wars, the character of the people differed materially from what it afterwards was. Instead of gayety and dissipation, a melancholy spirit prevailed. Almost the only topic of conversation with the people was in regard to their troubles with the Indians and the individual difficulties of their situation. Their chief relaxation consisted in singing psalms and doggerel rhymes. The only news that reached them was of cruel murders, by the savages, of their friends and acquaintance, or else of the wonderful escapes and marvellous exploits of the latter.”3

Churches were not established until much later in the 1700s (though there were meeting houses at first) so they were again denied communal worship in the new world. I assume they were pragmatists – unlike the other colonial settlers at the time like the Pilgrims whose religion figured so prominently in their desire to settle (and conquer) the New World. Their life in Ireland would have been a preview for this lifestyle – since their communal and church life was dismantled before they left.

A few tales survive that frequently described one aspect of life in Maine – Indian encounters. One involved David Alexander, father of William who married James Wilson’s daughter, Jennet. William and a friend of him were set upon by Indians: “The boys’ outcries at length attracted the attention of the settlers up and down the river, and his father being first to comprehend the true state of things outstripped all others in going to the relief of his son, guided partially by the voice of the lad and partly by the zigzag trail of the furrowed earth which was a conspicuous mark and was made by the boy’s stubborn obstinacy and resistance. The father at length came in full sight of his son and was hastening to his rescue when the Indian, letting go the lad, fired, killing Mr. Alexander, who fell instantly dead. The son, the moment he saw his father fall, ran. and the Indian, fearing pursuit, desisted from attempting his recapture.”4

Bolton’s description of these Scotch Irish settlers is truthful even though a bit lyrical: “The Scotch Irish have never claimed that they brought literature or art to these shores. They knew little of the former and nothing of aesthetics. Diaries and letters of the migration period do not exist and perhaps never did exist. Let us speak frankly. Every race brings to our western civilization a gift of its own. These people from Ulster cared very little for the beautiful, with the single exception of the wonderful and beautiful Bible story.”5

He goes on to say: “The Scotch Irish could not see that the severe lines of a cabin are softened by a sumac against the south wall or a creeper at the corner. They did not trim the edge of the roadway that led to the front door. In short, utility required nothing of these things and utility was their law. For the same reason, if the soles of their feet were tough they saw small need of shoes in summer. Their bare feet, however, gave something of a shock to century-old New England. This rude development of taste was based possibly upon a primitive state of education.”6 

So utilitarian, no-frills, not educated (I prefer that to uneducated) – just survivors as our ancestors needed to be or else we would not be alive today. Bolton phrases this way: “It is evident that whether we view the Scotch Irish pioneers from the standpoint of education, or culture, or material success of the larger kind, they were in 1718 in their proper place when Cotton Mather consigned them to the frontier.”7

I only started looking at the role of the Scotch Irish after I had worked my way through numerous generations and thousands of descendants. I think this is why so much of early Maine was so hard for me to comprehend; it is a story very different from much of what we know about the early colonies. We are fed a diet of heroic ancestors and doings and never introduced to real life. Even the tragedy of Jamestown is more interesting. Talk of the “seasoning” that the English had to undergo, getting used to the heat of the south, the oft-told romanticized tale of Pocahontas – it all adds up to a marvelous tale. The story of James Oglethorpe, a social reformer, who founded the colony of Georgia is another tale that I, as a Georgia native, was raised with. Not only did he rescue debtors from prison but he also laid out a well-thought out city in Savannah. As anyone who been there knows, it is a gorgeous city with incredible history. Comparing those stories to Indian horrors? Not much of contest there! Once again, however, someone had to do it and the Scotch Irish settlers of early Maine performed their duty well.” target=”_blank”>Wheeler’s History of Brunswick,Topsham and Harpswell, Maine helpful with insights into our ancestors’ lives. We do know that when James Wilson, his wife Jean and children arrived there was almost nothing. 

“In Brunswick…there were in 1718 no dwelling places for the families, except within the walls of the fort…A little before that time, three families settle in Topsham; all of whom were afterwards destroyed in Lovewell’s war.”1 The Wilsons may have arrived in 1719, only a year later. The Indian wars heated up in 1722 and we see Jean Wilson leaving the area with the children immediately afterwards.

Families lived far apart initially and only could travel by water as there were no inland avenues.

These Scotch Irish “were usually called “ wild Irish” by the native New-Englanders. It is said of these early settlers that “they used to peek out through a crack or partly opened door, to see whether their callers were friends or foes, and that the same habit of peeking out through a half-open door to see whom their callers may be, is noticed to this day in their descendants.” These settlers were nearly all poor, and often suffered for the necessaries of life. They had to work hard for their living, and dress in the plainest manner.”2

They were understandably not happy: “During the period embraced by the Indian wars, the character of the people differed materially from what it afterwards was. Instead of gayety and dissipation, a melancholy spirit prevailed. Almost the only topic of conversation with the people was in regard to their troubles with the Indians and the individual difficulties of their situation. Their chief relaxation consisted in singing psalms and doggerel rhymes. The only news that reached them was of cruel murders, by the savages, of their friends and acquaintance, or else of the wonderful escapes and marvellous exploits of the latter.”3

Churches were not established until much later in the 1700s (though there were meeting houses at first) so they were again denied communal worship in the new world. I assume they were pragmatists – unlike the other colonial settlers at the time but like the Pilgrims whose religion figured so prominently in their desire to settle (and conquer) the New World. Their life in Ireland would have been a preview for this lifestyle – since their communal and church life was dismantled before they left.

A few tales survive that frequently described one aspect of life in Maine – Indian encounters. One involved David Alexander, father of William who married James Wilson’s daughter, Jennet. William and a friend of him were set upon by Indians:
“The boys’ outcries at length attracted the attention of the settlers up and down the river, and his father being first to comprehend the true state of things outstripped all others in going to the relief of his son, guided partially by the voice of the lad and partly by the zigzag trail of the furrowed earth which was a conspicuous mark and was made by the boy’s stubborn obstinacy and resistance. The father at length came in full sight of his son and was hastening to his rescue when the Indian, letting go the lad, fired, killing Mr. Alexander, who fell instantly dead. The son, the moment he saw his father fall, ran. and the Indian, fearing pursuit, desisted from attempting his recapture.”4

Bolton’s description of these Scotch Irish settlers is truthful even though a bit lyrical:
“The Scotch Irish have never claimed that they brought literature or art to these shores. They knew little of the former and nothing of aesthetics. Diaries and letters of the migration period do not  exist and perhaps never did exist. Let us speak frankly. Every race brings to our western civilization a gift of its own. These people from Ulster cared very little for the beautiful, with the single exception of the wonderful and beautiful Bible story.”5

He goes on to say:
“The Scotch Irish could not see that the severe lines of a cabin are softened by a sumac against the south wall or a creeper at the corner. They did not trim the edge of the roadway that led to the front
door. In short, utility required nothing of these things and utility was their law. For the same reason,
if the soles of their feet were tough they saw small need of shoes in summer. Their bare feet, however, gave something of a shock to century-old New England. This rude development of taste was based possibly upon a primitive state of education.”6

So utilitarian, no-frills, not educated (I prefer that to uneducated) – just survivors as our ancestors needed to be or else we would not be alive today. Bolton phrases this way: “It is evident that whether we view the Scotch Irish pioneers from the standpoint of education, or culture, or material success of the larger kind, they were in 1718 in their proper place when Cotton Mather consigned them to the frontier.”7

I only started looking at the role of the Scotch Irish after I had worked my way through numerous generations and thousands of descendants. I think this is why so much of early Maine was so hard for me to comprehend; it is a story very different from much of what we know about the early colonies. We are fed a diet of heroic ancestors and doings and never introduced to real life.

Even the tragedy of Jamestown is more interesting. Talk of the “seasoning” that the English had to undergo, getting used to the heat of the south, the oft-told romanticized tale of Pocahontas – it all adds up to a marvelous tale.

The story of James Oglethorpe, a social reformer, who founded the colony of Georgia is another tale that I, as a Georgia native, was raised with. Not only did he rescue debtors from prison but he also laid out a well-thought out city in Savannah. As anyone who been there knows, it is a gorgeous city with incredible history. 

Comparing those stories to Indian horrors? Not much of contest there! Once again, however,  someone had to do it and the Scotch Irish settlers of early Maine performed their duty well. 

—————————————————————————-

1William Durkee Williamson, The History of the State of Maine: from its First Discovery, AD 1602, to the Separation, AD 1820, Inclusive, Vol. II (Hallowell: Glazier, Masters & Co., 1832), 88.
2George Augustus Wheeler, M.D. and Henry Warren Wheeler, History of Topsham, Brunswick and Harpswell including the ancient territory known as Pejebscot (Boston: Alfred Mudge and Sons, Printers, 1878), 205.
3Wheeler, 206.
4Wheeler, 208
5Charles Knowles Bolton, Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America (Boston: Bacon and Brown, 1910), 301-302. 
6Bolton, 303.
7Bolton, 306.

The Uncommonly Common is still a work in process. If anyone finds any errors, I beg you to inform me!

The Alexanders of Maine

The Alexanders and their descendants make up a fair amount of the Wilson family tree. I had long thought  that my next book would be about them and I’m proceeding with that idea.

One thing that makes them interesting is not the branch that everyone knows but the other Alexanders in Maine. I started looking at what I’ve unearthed so far and trying to piece together some sort of coherent story.  To date this is where my research has gotten to.

Since births were not recorded in early Topsham records and since many marriages were also not recorded, there are families whose early origins are not known. A good example of this is the Alexanders of Topsham (and thus of Bowdoin and Litchfield).

All early Topsham records list a William Alexander. It is believed that David Alexander was the father of all the Alexanders who arrived in southern Maine. As David’s son William settled in Harpswell, we can be sure this William is not David’s son. So was he his grandson or was he the son of another Alexander that came to Maine?

DeAlva Stanwood Alexander specifically states “James Alexander, whose farm was entered of record in Topsham in 1738, was his son, probably younger than William.” His son, meaning David’s son. No land was deeded to settlers in Topsham until the 1750’s / 1760’s but prospective land owners were required to settle the land and erect buildings long before that in order to qualify for ownership.

The earliest, but undated, list of the Topsham settlers was created prior to 1743 because James Wilson who died in 1743 is included on that list. But only William is the only Alexander included in that list.

There is an index for the Pejebscot Papers and it does not list a James or J Alexander. The index was created after DeAlva Stanwood wrote his book in 1898 and there are documented missing papers now. No only that but there are multiple copies of some things and they rarely ever state it to be the first / original or a copy. The papers are only losely organized and I’ve dug into them at least three times so far. More research is needed.

So we have no proof at all that a James existed besides DeAlva’s mention. We also have DeAlva’s statement that he thinks James Wilson died prior to 1731 so he obviously never saw the undated “List of Settlers who were to be at Topsham (Some of Whom Came)” that lists both James Wilson and William Alexander.”

One intriguing clue not available to DeAlva comes from Bolton’s Scotch-Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America. He compiled some lists of some of the settlers who did come on the Temple ships. Among those is listed a James Wilson, a Jean Wilson and four children, the father of Jennet who was not born in Maine and who did marry William Alexander of Harpswell.

The Alexanders on that list on page 233?

_____ Alexander, wife and four children
David Alexander and son
William Alexander

That’s a total of 9 Alexanders who came to Merrymeeting Bay. I do believe he counted some twice but still not the same picture as David and sons James and William only.

The facts are these:

1) There was a William Alexander who lived in Topsham. He is listed on all the early and later lists.
2) There was at least one Robert Alexander is also listed and deeded with property in Topsham before 1770.
3) There was one George Alexander who supposedly died in Topsham about 1735. His two children were born in Georgetown in 1728 and 1732.
3) There are mentions of 2 Roberts both born about 1740, one who had a family in Topsham and one in Bowdoin.
4) There was a John Alexander born before 1740 who married a Combs in Bowdoin.
5) And I found a Margaret who married Robert Gower in 1761, making her birth probably prior to 1740. Considering how late many of the early marriages took place she could easily be born prior to 1730 or even 1720. She is stated to be the sister of Robert in Topsham.
6) A Jean Alexander married Robert Douglas in 1762 in Topsham.

In the subsequent generations, I have turned up multiple Alexanders whose ancestry is unknown, leaving me to believe there might have been more early Alexanders as yet undiscovered.

Stay tuned!

Wilson “Reunion”

June 5, 2015 NOTE: A great time was had by all that came. Hopefully, we’ll do this again next year! Contact me if you are interested!

Reunion is in quotes because in actuality most of us will be meeting for the first time in the flesh. We’re interested in getting to know our new cousins and I’m really (always) interested in adding more information and people to this family tree. The focus of the weekend will be genealogy but you don’t have to interested in that to enjoy meeting new people from other lands (me from Virginia and I know of one other coming from Nevada) as well your neighbors and friends that you didn’t know you were related to!

The weekend of May 20 is the when and we are still working on the details (see below). It’s going to be informal and is open to any Wilson descendant or folks wanting to find out if they are a Wilson descendant.

If you’ll give us an email address, I’ll be glad to send you information as it is developed about meeting in Maine. Use the sign up form here: http://eepurl.com/c7qSkr (note: this has changed as of 13 Oct 2017)

After signing up for the email list, take this survey as well: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9RZQ5LS  That will tell us what you may be interested in doing.

Saturday, May 21

Breakfast: Fairground Cafe, Topsham Fairground Mall, 9:00 a.m.

After breakfast – we’ll not be bound by a schedule here but by 10 or 11 we’ll be out and about in Topsham. The Hugh Wilson houses are on the agenda as well as cemeteries. It will depend on the interest as to how much we do. My direct ancestors are in the cemetery right down from the Hugh Wilson houses so that’s a definite plan. There are two other cemeteries that have Wilson descendants – the oldest, First Parish of Topsham and the best known, Riverside. We may just ride past so that you can see where they are.

Lunch: The Grange, Harpswell: 1:00 p.m.

Bring your own lunch and join us at this old institution in Harpswell. We’re going to eat and talk and eat and talk! Get to know one another and look at genealogies.

Supper: Depending on whose interested, we may lay plans for a nice meal. Keep in touch so we can tell you where we end up.

Sunday, May 22

Afternoon – Dave Hackett (Harpswell Historical Society) is going to lead a tour around Harpswell. No other details yet so stay tuned.

We’ll have plenty of time for more activities if we get together and decide to go other places. Like I said this will be informal!

 

 

 

Uncommonly Common Now Widely Available

You can order it through Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon.com. That means it should be available through all book lists and even your local library could order it.

Ask for it!

On Line Resources for Uncommonly Common

insta_cover_hardback.inddIt truly is done now and going to the printers this week. I am gobsmacked and filled with trepidation but I can endlessly proof this and never publish. There will be errors.

I have added additional digital resources here for the book which can be found at the following links. All are PDFs and you can read in your process or save the files to your website. They will open in a new window.

Table of Contents:
http://cvillegenie.com/pdfs/wilson_toc.pdf or shortened  http://goo.gl/JklxFm

Zoomable Maps:
Full Topsham Map
http://cvillegenie.com/james_wilson_family/wilson_images/topsham-full-wheeler-map.jpg or shortened: http://goo.gl/jZIDD8

Topsham Roads, Now and Then
http://cvillegenie.com/james_wilson_family/wilson_images/topsham_map_roads.jpg or shortened: http://goo.gl/Nc7qUF

Index of Names:
http://cvillegenie.com/pdfs/index_of_names.pdf  or shortened: http://goo.gl/uiJR6q

When it’s all over…

The book is done. The Uncommonly Common is as finished as it’s going to get. Except for some expected edits, I have no more research and writing to do. After 18 months, I get to relax. Or not.

I’ve been living this world for so long now, it’s become my alternate reality and my escape. I am left bereft, not elated to have finished.

It’s really time to recap the experience and look at what I have ended up with.

The Journey

I started this whole process by simply signing up on ancestry.com. This is an addictive thing in case you have not tried it.  I took it to extremes by trying to document all descendants of each original ancestor. One family line was just too massive to even think it. One family line had too little to keep me busy. Another needed some work but didn’t appear interesting. And then the Wilson line. Different, mystifying and totally new as I did not know my Dad’s family was from Maine initially.

I got finished running through what I could find out thru ancestry but was left with so many questions. By that time I was hooked on genealogy and wanted more. I researched the profession, signed up with the National Genealogy Society that was meeting that May only an hour away from me in Richmond, and looked into professional certification. I starting learning how to do it correctly.

Then I decided to write a book for several reasons. One, I am first and foremost a writer who turned to web design to make a living. Two, I had a lot of information I wanted to do something with. And three, I wanted to know more, seriously, and do some on the ground research.

I made two trips to Maine and got my hands on nearly every scrap of information I could find on those first three or four generations of the Wilsons.

The Results

I have written a book that is ready to print. I’m a writer, a graphic designer and a genealogist so I have a 350 page book ready to go in Indesign. (6 x 9)

This is NOT a normal genealogy. It is a story of a Topsham, Maine, family from 1719 to today. I tracked all the descendants of James Wilson who came to Maine in the Robert Temple ships. Though he died in 1743, his children were at the right age to populate and usher Topsham into incorporation and the founding of Maine as a state. So they were the inn keepers, the saw mill owners, and the dam owners…oh, yes, and major land owners.

Though James Wilson is one of my ancestors, I am a Georgia girl who, until 18 months ago, didn’t even know about this part of my heritage. The book is a journey of discovery, a comparison of north and south and is written with one over riding purpose: to be a readable and maybe even enjoyable book. I cover all descendants that I could find up ’til about 1900 for most lines and then take one line (yeah, my own) all the way to present day.

There are also two chapters about two different individuals. One is a descendant who became a sheriff in the 1850s near Gainesville, Florida, and one who deserted during the Civil War and ended up settling in the Virginia mountains near me. Both are interesting tales!

This was written to genealogical stand of proof. I have documented the facts, occasionally described the process and provide the reasons for my conclusions when the proof is not substantial  or is an interesting tale.

The finalized Table of Contents is here. Though the writing is finished, I will be continuing to edit up until publication as information is still drifting in. I have proofed the footnotes (I haven’t done a count but there are over 500) and done several read through and editing sessions but I will be doing more of that in the coming weeks and months.

I’m now looking for a publisher. Of course, I will self-publish if I have to but prefer to work with a publisher in order to get the marketing effort that I cannot manage by myself. Publishing just to get it into print is not the goal. Publishing in order to get it into the hands of readers is.

My Conclusions

Not only was this the right thing for me to, spending hundreds of hours, precious money and a lot of thinking, but it was also the best thing to do. I am in my element doing what my education prepared me for and what I was designed for.

Finding my “roots” made me whole. I am no longer an outcast in a southern society but a hybrid who fits into both the north and south equally. I feel like Maine is my real home (just for six months out of the year – not  a snow girl!) and look forward to spending more time up there in the future.

As my web design business normally is not full-time (as intended), I have the time to spend to get my genealogy business into a profitable condition. Starting a new business has its own benefits and my entrepreneurial spirit is rejoicing. Adventure!!

When It’s All Over

There is a beginning. A new phase of life for me. A new business.  And a book, The Uncommonly Common.

 

 

Topsham Maps

I’ve been busy getting the Wilson book finished and I’m getting really close. One thing I’m working on is a set of maps for the book and corresponding files on this website. The web files are much larger of course. All you have to do is use the zooming function of your browser to view closer. I’ve left them large so that you can really look at the details.

The large 1768 map of Brunswick and Topsham is here: http://goo.gl/jZIDD8

Map with today’s roads superimposed on Topsham & 1764 roads: http://goo.gl/Nc7qUF

 

And the Book is Ready for Editing and Proofing

As of today, the main writing task is done. The research will never end; that's just the way genealogy works. As new data becomes available, changes, additions, deletions have to be made to a family tree. It's an incredibly fluid thing. 

Just this weekend I ran across evidence of that when dipping back down in to my great grandparent's generation, suddenly both of their graves popped up on Findagrave.com. There are no pictures yet but the additions give me final proof of the birth and death dates and a confirmed physical location.

The rate information is being digitized is speeding up with new databases being made available online. The bad news is that you are never done. The good news is you get to dig forever! 

A lot of editing and proofreading awaits me but now I can start looking for a publisher and I can relax and enjoy my next trip to Maine. I hope to find more pieces of the puzzle on my next trip but all I have to do is plug in those bits. I shouldn't have to do major rewriting or even add any more people into the tree. (famous last words!)

My research and writing over the last few days has made me realize how lucky I am personally that my father and his father survived. Though I knew there was a constant theme of tuberculosis deaths throughout the generations in Maine, my family landed in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the late 1800s. I kept seeing occasional deaths but when I got into my great grandparents' generation, I realized that tuberculosis had become a scourge.

Tuberculosis reached its heights after industrilization began. Instead of associating with a limited amount of people, workers joined large groups making it easier to get TB. The overcrowding and lack of sanitation in the industrialized residential areas also had an major impact.

By the time my family moved into Lynn, there were only three living adults and only two that had children. My great great grandfather's brother, Henry, was the other. He and his wife had three children, all born in Lynn. His wife died in 1883 from bronchitis supposedly but then his daughter died in 1897 and son in 1901 from tuberculosis. The third daughter never had children.

My great great grandparents had ten children between 1870 and 1892. Two died young, two women never married but 17 grandchildren were born by 1909. The oldest son had four children. One of those four died at age 12 in 1908, followed by her mother in 1918 and sister in 1925. They were all tuberculosis deaths. 

Meanwhile, the second son lost his fourth daughter in 1904 and his wife by 1909. Since the daughter only lasted a few months with TB, it's entirely possible that the wife also died from tuberculosis. At some point between 1900 and 1910 my great great grandparents must have realized how dangerous Lynn was. They had witnessed the deaths of at least four grandchildren and one daughter-in-law by 1908. 

They left, moving to Candia, New Hampshire, and back to a farming existence. The third son, my great grandfather, left the state by then, heading for Philadelphia and New Jersey and he didn't lose any children. None of the other children lost spouses or children to TB. By the time the three youngest went out on their own, they were able to truly thrive and prosper though it did take one or more generations for that to happen with their siblings.

I've said from the start of this project that the Scotch-Irish were survivors and that's what my family did.They survived. And I'm glad they did. 

What’s in a name? – chapter 1

Note: this is chapter one of the book, The Uncommonly Common.

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

The Backstory

I really hated my Shakespeare class in college.  I had hoped I would gain some appreciation for the “Bard” but it was so boring!  Yet, when I reached for a quote to use, lo and behold, up pops the above phrase from Romeo and Juliet. 

Shakespeare was asking a question that has come to haunt me in my adult years.  He wanted to know does the name make the man (or woman as in my case).

Names do come with connotations for most of us.  The more recent phenomenon of giving boys or non-sex names to girls recognizes that Jane Doe is obviously female but Madison Doe could be a guy.  Parents frequently do this to give their “girls” an edge in today’s still male-dominated world.

Here in the South we still call grown men by kid’s names, Tommy, Billy, Jimmy.  Washington, D.C. never got used to “our” Jimmy Carter.  It was, for many, a way of subtly being able to put down a president even though this southern practice is not intended to mark or disparage an individual.

When I met my husband, Tommy, I figured I would change that cute little name to Tom or Thomas.  I ran into an immediate problem.  He is not a Tom or a Thomas to me.  He is a Tommy—you know, that cute little freckle-faced kid from down the block..  Something that is an endearment for me is what everyone calls him.

Growing up as a Delia in Gainesville, Georgia, in the 1950’s and 1960’s was fraught with name problems for me.  First, because there were no connotations to my name.  There was not anyone I ever met there who had my name.  In fact, I met my first other Delia at age 20 in college.  I have met very few since then.

I did occasionally see my name in print: the Irish maid in so many stories from years ago was so frequently named Delia.  A maid!  Not the heroine, not the story’s main character, a maid, for heaven’s sake.  Oh, dear.  What is in a name?

Additionally, I (okay, my name) was the subject of 2 hit songs back in the early 60’s. (Waylen Jennings sang about “my” adultery and murder in “Delia’s Gone”.)  Then in the 1970’s or 1980’s a soap opera character was christened Delia.  I did not even check to see what they had done to me that time.

My teachers could not pronounce my name correctly (I was too embarrassed to teach them how to say it).  The other kids used my name as a taunt: I was obviously a good victim.

My name is always being misspelled.  I get called Debra or Delilah or Julia or Belia in writing or out loud.  (My handwriting probably does not help this process.)

Once I started my own business back in the ‘80’s, I decided to use that uniqueness to my advantage and to teach the world how to pronounce and spell my name.  “I will take this opportunity teach the world!  I will become pronounceable, spellable!”  I ended up constantly spelling my name anew to customers, vendors, sales people.  Constantly, they were apologizing for mangling the pronunciation.  I have received uncountable apologies, more than enough to make up for the teachers’ and children’s misuse of my name in those early years.

But, now, the unthinkable has happened.  It started some years ago.  Somebody named a company Delia’s.  This company sells clothing and such to pre-teens and others of tender age.  Type “my” name in a internet search and this company hogs the scene!

Then a specific author rose to some prominence, Delia Ephron, sister of Nora Ephron, movie director.  Nora brought us the movie, You’ve Got Mail, and has helped to bring her sister to wider acclaim. 

Now you say that’s not much.  How could this be problematic for me?  Well, it seems like all of a sudden every author in the world has decided to include a Delia in their opus.  I do read voraciously but now I can check 10 books out of the library and find my name in 2 or 3! 

Now for those of you who are accustomed to seeing “your” names in print, you cannot fathom how truly disconcerting and upsetting this is for me.  For most of my life, my name virtually did not appear in print.  If Delia was mentioned, it was me someone was talking about me, like in a newspaper article.  I was important, unique and fortunate to have something different.  My own name.

As always, I read along, enjoy my fiction, my escapism.  But now, I am getting jolted out of my fantasy, my stories.  Hey, my name again!  Hey, what does this mean about me? I’m not the Irish maid any longer.  I’m not so unique.  My lifelong self-assumed identity does not work anymore.

I’m just Delia, one of many fictional characters who exist only in other authors’ imaginations; for you see, I still rarely meet other Delias.  People are only beginning to name their children with my name.  It remains a more common name for my great-grandparents’ and my grandparents’ generations.  

Well, I guess it is a step up, from total obscurity to a type of infamy.  Today I am only a figment of someone else’s imagination!

And there is the family tree…

I was named after my great-grandmother, Delia McCarron Wilson, from Ireland. I think somewhere someone said it was a family name, but since I cannot find evidence of her existence before she married my great-grandfather, I have not been able to prove that. 

I always assumed that Delia was a very common name in Ireland but I was informed by a techie Irish friend of mine that it is not so. Delia appears to be more common in British Isles than here in the states but not by much. 

It turns out that Delia in Ireland may well be a nickname for someone named Bidelia, Biddie, or Bridget. So much for an identity grounded in my “name”.

And then there is the rest of the family tree.

I am a Wilson – one of those Maine Wilsons. Well, I declare! I had no idea until December of 2013. For some unknown reason I had decided my family up New Jersey / Massachusetts way were all immigrants from Ireland and Poland. 

Nope, the original James Wilson came here about 1719 landing in Maine with his wife and children. Such a common name, Wilson. Can that really mean anything?

In my digging through my Maine family tree I do see the introduction of Delia – as a shortened form of Cordelia, Predelia and many more interesting and forgotten names. I was able to pinpoint where in my family women were named Delia instead of using a nickname of Delia. Oh, well, I am now firmly grounded in my roots.

So Delia Wilson. An uncommonly common name. 

And you’ll come to see that the commonly-named Wilsons of Topsham, Maine, are not so common after all.

Thus begins the tale of the Wilsons of Maine, a story of Maine, Massachusetts, and New England from the Mayflower until today.

The Wilson Tree is Online Here!

The Wilson tree is now online here on cvillegenie.com. You no longer have to have an ancestry.com membership to view the tree. It’s without photos and may have its content changed before it settles down but now anyone can view what I’ve been working on!

Though this is all of the descendants of James Wilson and some extra ancestors of those descendants, this is not the definitive end result of my study. Only the book, The Uncommonly Common, has verified information. I have not verified information for persons born after 1900 in most cases.

Living people are shown by name but without any information. If you find incorrect content or living peoples’ info being displayed, click on the Suggest tab on the profile of the person that needs correcting and send me a note.

I don’t expect this to be perfect but I will continue to update this material as I am able to.

Would you like to help? Got photos you want to add to a profile? Want to get to be able to work on profiles of your immediate family? I would love to have you involved. Contact me!

Just want to look around? Click here to view the James Wilson tree online.

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