Saturday, January 20, 2018

HOODWINKS AND HUMBLE PIE: What's Under the Crust?

9GGF William Jefferay, (1591-1675) 
As self-assigned family historian, I take my job very seriously as I attempt to unearth the stories of the GloverSmith past in an earnest effort to endow our future generations with a true sense of heritage.  In the forty years since I began this quest, I’ve learned to check and recheck information and to carefully collect documentation to ensure my research is based more on facts than folklore.  But every now and then I fall victim to a crafty hoodwink or two.  It’s not the first time -and I’m sure it won’t be the last- when I have to cut into a piece of ‘umble pie.
In one of my fact-checking moments today, I discovered an obscure entry at an online genealogy site that suggested someone else had been hoodwinked, too.  Like me (and many, many others,) the contributor had been leaning heavily upon TheJournal of William Jefferay, gentleman… as a reliable primary source for information about our shared ancestor.  I was surprised to see that this person had removed Jefferay’s 17th century journal from his list of sources because he believed it to be historical fiction.  Hmm.  I thought I’d take a closer look.
Here’s what I found when I scrutinized the title page (see if you can spot it, too):
Born at Chiddingly, Old England, in the year 1597;
Died at Newport, New England, in the year 1675.
Some Account of Divers People, Places and Happening,
Chiefly in New England.
Compiler of
“The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island,
“The Roger Williams Calendar,” etc. etc.

The title provides a hint of hoodwinkery “hidden in plain sight”: “A DIARY THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.”  Since Austin’s byline included his role as editor rather than author, a reader might rightfully be led to believe that he worked from genuine manuscripts written by Mr. Jefferay.  But Mr. Austin did not draw a clear line between fact and fiction, suggestively allowing the reader to believe either way.  I had eagerly read the journal and even shared parts of it, believing the compilation to be the genuine, selected, personal writings of my ninth great grandfather, edited into a volume by a noted genealogist, Mr. Austin.
In the “Editor’s Preface,” Austin’s language might even suggest that any erudite (aka “always intelligent”) reader would easily extrapolate his intent: 
“The always intelligent reader will perceive that no attempt is herein made to befog his understanding with the somewhat musty, if time-honored, story of an ancient manuscript, found in an oaken chest, in an old garret. [Hoodwink #2: With a careful choice of wording, Austin confessed that he did not “attempt to befog” the reader with real entries from a real journal.]
“Neither has it been thought necessary to use a form of language strikingly different from the present; for, however much the seeming quaintness, it repels continuous reading, and the real difference in style of the two periods, is not so marked as often imagined.
“Yet, without these customary attestations to reliability, [Hoodwink #3: he confessed here that we will not be able to verify the reliability of the content since he tweaked the antiquated language, deceptively suggesting he was working from an antiquated text.] there is here much fact, if some fancy is also interwoven. [Uh-huh.] As to the seven stories told at the Seven Club, the reader must be his own judge [He’s off the hook!] of whether, in a more credulous age than ours, these were really told and taken in all seriousness, or whether each strove to outdo the others in marvels, as happens often in our day.
“But as to this Journal, if any should be found so doubting as to think there was no such man as the one now edited, [Hoodwink #4: using the ruse of offering up proof that William Jefferay was a real man whose grave bore a real inscribed headstone, he lulled the readers into a false sense of trust that what they were about to read was equally real.]  let him go to the house of Sergeant Bull (still standing), where Jefferay first met his wife; or, doubting yet, he may hie him to the old cemetery, and there read, while time still spares the almost gone inscription:
“Here lyeth interred the body of Wm. Jeffray Gentl, who departed this life on the 2d day of Jan’y, 1675, in the 85th year of his age.
Since every tomb an epitaph can have,
The Muses owe their tribute to this grave,
And to succeeding ages recommend
His worthy name, who lived and died their friend;
Being full of days and virtues, love, and peace,
God from his troubles gave him a release,
And called him unto the celestial place,
Where happy souls view their Creator’s face.
Vivit post funera Virtus”

“Now shall the gentle reader, no longer doubting, read Mr. Jefferay’s Journal aright, and learn, perchance, some things worth the keeping.” [Hoodwink #5: “No longer doubting,” we were welcomed to read the journal as if it, too, was real. And many of us did just that!]
Well, well, well.  As I dug a little deeper, I discovered that Mr. Austin must have enjoyed great success with his book, publishing a sequel to it the following year:
Found in Mr. Jefferay’s papers marked:
Some strange relatings, sent by divers of mine acquaintance,
with a desire that they be read unto the Seven Club.
Here followeth a naming of within. W.J.’ [nice touch-adding William Jefferay’s initials]
Edited by John Osborne Austin.
Compiler of “The Journal of William Jefferay, Gentleman.1900”’
[from the Preface]  “It was doubtless Mr. Jefferay’s intention to have read these tales at the Seven Club, though whether he ever did so is unknown.  Evidently those who sent them to him were familiar with the tales already told at the club, and were acquainted with the members.  The narrations heretofore published (as part of Mr. Jefferay’s Journal) were so favorably received, that it has been decided to print these later found [aka “I just made them up, too”] stories, as a proper sequel… Wherefore, gentle reader, give unto them a fair hearing, and your courtesy shall, perchance, be something requited.  JOHN OSBORNE AUSTIN. Providence, R.I.”

I also found reference made to this sequel in an author’s notes from “The Town Records of Rhode Island: A Report, Volume 8 by Amos Perry. On page 279, Perry states, “More Seven Club Tales is the title of an interesting pamphlet recently issued by John O. Austin.  These quaint tales, imaginary in structure, but founded on fact, form a sequel to the author’s Journal of William Jefferay.” [This was a nice way of saying that Austin created the tales based on things he knew about the individuals to whom he attributed the stories.]

But, thank goodness for authors who don’t mince their words.  In Matthews and Pierce’s book, American Diaries: An Annotated Bibliography of American Diaries Written Prior to the Year 1861, Volume 16, published in 1945, we find the following description:
“Jefferay, William (1591-1675) of Chiddingly, Eng., and Newport, R.I. Private diary, 1650-January 1669 (preceded by autobiographical notes); a fake diary [yes, a FAKE diary!] of the life of an actual inhabitant of Providence, recently written. John O. Austin, The Journal of William Jefferay (Providence, 1899) 189 pp.” 

Please excuse me while I go eat my humble pie!

Monday, January 1, 2018


From the Journal of William Jefferay (1591-1675) 9th Great-grandfather (Jefferay/Gould-Barker/Winsor-Dort/Post-SMITH)
NEW YEAR'S EVE journal entry:
"Dec. 31, Wednesday. I have cast up my accounts and made some compare of revenue and expense for the year, as is my custom always at the end of this month. I have no debt owing, and none that owe me, as I have ever found borrowing and lending a bar to friendship.
"To the poor, of whom not many are here, I have given as my means would allow, and count it a blessing that I can. Many a poor man is perchance worthier in some things than he whose purse is heavier, and indeed one of the worst kinds of pride that groweth upon a man is that of purse.
"Now goeth out the year with much to be thankful for in health, wealth sufficient, and, best of all, my dear wife and children, my latest blessings." [William Jefferay, gentleman. Newport, Rhode Island, 1652]

Sunday, December 24, 2017


9th GGFather William Jefferay, 1623 Immigrant (JEFFERAY-Barker-Winsor/Dort to Smith)

A 17th Century Rhode Island Christmas
From his journal
"Dec. 25, Saturday. This Christmas will be ever remembered, for a most pleasant surprise it brought. The children did show me by strong endeavourings to keep awhile their secret, that something was in store for my pleasure; but I was ill-prepared to find it so great a matter. Upon the proper time arriving, however, I was shown a very pretty table, the work of my son; which, examining more closely, I then saw was inlaid of little squares, each of a different wood, all fitted together with much nicety, and polished to show the grain and thus explain the kind. This I had thought all (and more than enough), but was now further shown that two little drawers might be pulled out; the upper one with most beautiful butterflies arrayed in every colour, and the lower having a vastly pretty collection of birds' eggs, some most rare, including that much wished for whip-poor-will's. The store in these two drawers was collected of all my children. Indeed, I should be well content with such a rich gift, coming to me so unexpected, and showing such diligence and love." [1658, Newport Rhode Island]
For more about William Jefferay, read: OUR RHODE ISLAND ROOTS #5-Jefferay's Journal.

Friday, December 8, 2017


SMITH-DORT/THOMAS~3rd GGM Deiadamia (Thomas) Dort
[The following notes were gleaned from the “Transactions of the Michigan State Agricultural Society for 1851.”Vol. 3] Deiadamia's husband, Titus Dort was not only a member of the executive committee but instrumental in founding both the Society and the first Michigan State Fair.

The 3rd Annual Michigan Agricultural Society [MAS] Exhibition, later known as the Michigan State Fair was held on Wed.-Fri. September 24-26, 1851.   Due to poor attendance the previous year in Ann Arbor, the Fair returned to Detroit. 
·         Day 1: cloudy -entry for stock and exhibited items.  Deiadamia would have been entering her products to exhibit while Titus attended the MAS executive committee meeting held on the grounds, making sure there were adequate volunteers for filling the viewing committees. Titus was named “chairman pro tem” as a member of the business committee for the coming year.
·      Day 2: clear, warm and “very pleasant”; The grounds were reported to be so crowded with people that the viewing committees found it difficult to judge.  At 2:00 pm a “very eloquent” [and very lengthy] address was delivered by Gen. Lewis Cass.
·       Day 3: began with heavy storms that subsided by 10:00 am.  Deiadamia and other fair-goers viewed the judged exhibits. [Did she take home a blue and a red ribbon?] The morning business meeting of the fair included: reading of committee reports; election of officers for 1852; notes of appreciation to go out to their featured speaker, volunteers, and land owners who supplied the grounds for the fair and a request for a copy of Gen. Cass' speech for publication.  Titus Dort moved to amend some specific wording to the constitution. Three delegates of the MAS were appointed to represent the society at next year’s Annual Exposition of the American Institute of New York. In the afternoon, a sale of exhibited animals took place “at which much of the stock on the ground changed owners.”

INCLUDED in the 1851 listing of EXHIBITORS:
·         Mrs. Titus Dort, Dearborn, 1 crock butter.
(In the committee report her entry was noted as “N. 31, 2nd best [Second Place] 10 lbs. made in June” for which she was awarded “Transactions and $1.00")  FYI: in today’s currency, $1.00 would be worth just over $30.
·         Mrs. Titus Dort, Dearborn, 2 new cheeses made without pressing.
(In the committee report it was noted “There were but few cheeses of one year old and over, but several new cheeses equal, in the opinion of your committee, to any made at the best dairies in the State of New York.” Of the five prizes given, her entry No. 55 was awarded the premium [First Place] for “two very excellent cheeses, made without pressing”) 
·         Mrs. Titus Dort, Dearborn, 1 pce. rag carpet.
      (The committee recommended a change for coming years due to a problem in judging “…In such goods as fulled cloths, coverlets, &c., the manufacturer by profession, and the farmer’s wife come into competition, while it is impossible that the latter can make as handsome an article as the former, though the actual quality may be as good. But it is believed that this Society peculiarly intends to foster ‘home productions of this sort; and therefore your committee think that it would be best to offer two setts of premiums, one for manufacturers, the other for agriculturists.”
·         Titus Dort, Dearborn, 3 varieties of apples
[In contrast to Titus’ modest entry from his orchards, a Mr. Fox of Grosse Ile exhibited 37 varieties along with “a dish of red Siberian crab apples”] 
·         Mrs. Titus Dort, Dearborn, 1 bottle currant wine.

Top exhibitors were asked to later submit a report on their prize-winning entries for publication in the annual report.  Great-great-great grandmother Deiadamia submitted the following:

 “CHEESE” Report by Mrs. D. [Deiadamia] Dort
J. C. Holmes, Esq., Sec’y Mich. State Ag. Society:
Dear Sir –Pursuant to the requirements of the premium list of said society, I send herewith a statement of the manner of making cheese without pressing for which a premium was awarded to me at the society’s fair for 1851.
The milk is curded and the rennet prepared in the same manner as is prescribed in the essay of A. L. Fish, Esq., of Herkimer county, New York, which will be found in the patent Office Report for 1848, pages 620 and 621. When the curd is properly prepared as therein directed, it is put into a clean dry linen or cotton bag, a little warmer than it should be when put to the press, and pressed down slowly as can be done with the hand, so as to make it solid ---it can be in just such shape as the maker may desire; I think the cone or sugar loaf the best shape –and then hung up to drip and dry, in about the same temperature as is fit for drying and curing pressed cheese.  No more than fifteen or twenty pounds should be put into a cheese of this kind.  They cure much sooner than when pressed, and are very rich, as none of the oil passes off as it does under the power of the press.  They need no care in drying, as the cloth is a perfect shield against flies, and prevents them from cracking.  When cured, they are very convenient for family use.
I have made but a few in this manner, and they have cured and kept as well as those that I have pressed of the same weight, and are much richer; besides it saves a great deal of care and labor in turning and greasing to prevent injury by flies.
Dearborn, January, 1852.