When my grandfather, C.R. Burgin, was in college, he pledged a fraternity, and one of the (now quaint) hazing rituals he was put through was to memorize the sequence of U.S. presidents up through Wilson.

For this he devised a shortcut, which was to only say the first syllable of their surnames. Sixty years later he could still rattle them all off, to the never-ending delight of his children and grandchildren: “WashAdJeff, MadMonAd, JackVanHar, TyPoTay...” and so on, till the penultimate “Eli Taft,”  and the ultimate, “Tiger Wilson, Sir!” (I’ll let you figure out the Eli and Tiger.)

In August of 1980, the summer I was fourteen, I spent a week or so with my grandparents alone in Maine, and one evening he wrote them all out for me, with an update through Carter.

I’m putting this up fully aware it will mean next to nothing to those family members who didn’t know him, and less than nothing to non-family who just happen by.

But sitting on the porch of the house in Maine, listening to him recite these while the ice in his bourbon softly clinked, and watching his face fill with mirth recalling it all, is one of my sweetest memories.

This piece of paper still puts me there.








The Photo Albums from Clarence Rodgers Burgin’s Youth

I mentioned that the early Burgins took few photographs, but by the time my grandfather, Clarence Rodgers Burgin was in knee pants, that had changed. These are some of the pictures of his youth and very early adulthood.

I’ve erred way on the side of inclusion.

There’s a spirit here, a mood, a sense of life as their family lived it, that comes through in a wonderful way when you just see them all in series.


OK, Have fun. (They seem to have.)


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The Clarence Burgin House, Quincy, MA

When I was growing up, my older relatives just called this “Grampy and Grammy’s old house.” Today, it’s regarded as one of the nicer colonial revival houses in Quincy, and it’s been placed on the National Register.


Photo by James L. Woodward


Wikipedia entry:

The Clarence Burgin House is a historic house at 95 President’s Lane in Quincy, Massachusetts. The 2-1/2 story wood frame house was built c. 1900 by Clarence Burgin, a bank executive and father of Quincy Mayor Thomas S. Burgin. It is one of the city’s finest examples of a gambrel-roofed Colonial Revival house. Notable features include the gambrel-roof gable dormer above the main entry, and the wraparound porch with multi-columned Greek-style projection.[2]

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Location 95 President’s Ln., Quincy, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°15′11″N71°0′30″WCoordinates42°15′11″N 71°0′30″W
Area 0.5 acres (0.20 ha)
Built 1900
Architectural style Colonial Revival
MPS Quincy MRA
NRHP Reference # 89001364[1]
Added to NRHP September 20, 1989


If you’d like to visit, here it is on Google Maps:

An Early Biography of Clarence Burgin

The biographical article below, which I found only recently, has done much – in my mind – to shed light on the early life of my great-grandfather, Clarence Burgin.

Clarence Burgin’s father, Thomas, was an upholsterer, and his father before him, John, was at first a gold wire drawer (I still have to look that one up), and later a victualer.

He was the first person in his family to be born in this country. I strongly doubt he started life with much money, but he seems to have had hustle, and in America, that counts for a lot…



Clarence Burgin, c.1910


The original:



Biographical review, containing life sketches of leading citizens of Norfolk County, Massachusetts

by Biographical Review Publishing Company, Boston, 1898


CLARENCE BURGIN, a prominent and able young business man of Quincy, Mass., and the treasurer of the Quincy Savings Bank, was born October 27, 1865, in Rutland, Vt. He is the son of Mr. Thomas Burgin and Mrs. Jane Scudder Burgin, both of London, England. In 1870 the family moved from Rutland to Springfield, Mass.


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A Few 19th Century Burgin Photographic Portraits

There are only a handful of extant photographs of the first and second generations of the Burgin family in America, as they would have appeared in the late 19th century. These shown below are all the ones I know about.

Perhaps, given their somewhat limited financial means, Thomas and Jane Burgin and their children viewed formal portraiture as a rare luxury, and personal photography as little more than a curiosity– a technical and possibly expensive hobby.

All that would change, though, in fairly short order.

By the time Clarence Burgin and Minnie Morton Rodgers had been married a decade, in the early days of the 20th century, the family was using cameras with a vengeance: amply documenting adolescent acrobatics on the lawn, picnics, neighborhood friends, and camping trips. Who would’ve thought? Burgins as early adopters!

In a week or so, I’ll have a post devoted to those albums. For now, though, the first few portraits…





Clockwise from left, the immigrants Thomas and Jane Skudder Burgin, (probably) Clarence Burgin as a youth, Minnie Morton Rodgers in her wedding gown, and lastly, Minnie Morton Rodgers, much as my grandfather would’ve known her growing up…  He once told me he would playfully take her hand and invoking a popular dance at the time, ask, “Minnie won’t you shimmy with me?” He loved the story.


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Oak Grove Cemetery in Springfield, MA

This is where Thomas and Jane Skudder Burgin are buried, along  with their daughter Jennie.

I haven’t gone yet, but I want to.



Oak Grove Cemetery


426 Bay Street

Springfield, Hamden County, Massachusetts, 01109

GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 42.12640, Longitude: -72.56250

No website listed but there is an official Facebook page, which you can find here.

(There is also an unofficial Facebook page which you can find here. This seems to be more people showing pictures of visits to loved ones.)

Oak Grove at Find-A-Grave.

Phone (413) 739-2127

Fax (413) 731-5138

email: oakgrovecemetery426@gmail.com



A map of the individual sections. Our people are in Heath Path Section 12-92.


In Memory of ‘Jennie’ Burgin

My mother, Jane Skudder Burgin Lawrence was told she was named after this young woman, whose given name was Jane but who was called Jennie.

One of my great-grandfather’s siblings, she was born in a suburb of London, and came here in her infancy. She died of tuberculosis when she was 24.

Her tombstone, in its brevity, and its use of her family nickname not her Christian name, speaks of the choking grief the family must have felt at her loss.

My mother has always wanted to go out to Springfield and pay a visit to Jennie’s grave, but for various reasons, we never took the trip.

This post is for her…



Jane / “Jennie” Burgin’s baptism/ birth entry:




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The Burgins Arrive NYC: May 3, 1864

In a period when the idea of immigration as a fundamental aspect of the American experience is on a lot of our minds, it was somewhat dumb luck that I happened across something we’ve been looking for for a long time: the (probable) record of the arrival of Jane Skudder Burgin and her children, via the steamship Cella, Edwin Billings master, in the port of New York from London, May 3, 1864.

These were the last/ most recent people in our family to leave their country, their friends their family, and most of their belongings, and come here.

(Off topic, but worth mentioning, it would take just eight years for Thomas Burgin to apply for and be granted his first patent.)

Looking at this list, I feel I was – almost – there to greet them.

And I suppose the larger point is worth making… Let’s continue to do everything we can to make the people coming today feel equally welcome and equally capable.



A transcription of the basic information is as follows:

Arrival Date: 3 May 1864

Family Ethnicity/ Nationality: British (English)

Place of Origin: Great Britain

Port of Departure: Le Havre, France and London, England

Destination: United States of America

Port of Arrival: New York, New York

Ship Name: Cella



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The Missing Ancestry of Thomas Burgin and Jane Skudder: What DO We Know?

When I review our family tree in the form of a fan chart, there is one vast swath missing, a cone of “empty space,” expanding out from the center.

If I look, though, using the same format, with not me but my grandfather, Clarence Rodgers Burgin, at the center, the cone widens to consume fully half the page (see below). This glaring blankness reflects the mostly missing ancestry of my grandfather’s paternal grandparents, Thomas Burgin and Jane Skudder.


The explanation runs this way. My grandfather’s father, whose name was Clarence Burgin, was the first person in his nuclear family to be born in America, and his parents, Thomas Burgin and Jane Skudder Burgin, were the last people in our extended family to be born overseas–In England.

Each generation of our family, on the right hand side of the fan chart, has put at least some time into either preserving or rediscovering knowledge of their forebears. I suspect that that happened because, as a practical issue, the information was stored locally and could be researched with some degree of ease. But the net result was a trail of breadcrumbs was created, and so the result is what you see.

In the case of the Burgin family, however, whose recent past was recorded in England not America, almost no investigation went on, and I think the reason why is straightforward: in the pre-internet era, it was hard to do. Really hard.

This post will be devoted to laying out what little we DO know about the Burgins… in the hope that it can serve as a foundation, a jumping-off point, for someone, whether a family member, or a paid researcher, or a combination of the two, to take up the challenge and find out who these people and their ancestors were.


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The Rodgers-Clift Family Bible, Found in an Online Auction

This was a recent eBay find. It’s the family bible documenting the early/ mid-19th century births in the Rodgers family.

Evidently after Uncle Tom’s (Thomas Skudder Burgin, brother of my grandfather, C. Rodgers Burgin) death, it was sold off, probably in a box of items, unrecognized for what it was. (Face palm.)

After leaving Massachusetts, it went to a Bible dealer in Indiana, and eventually to a re-seller in Odessa, Texas, who – following its purchase – sent it back to me.

As Paul Simon said, ‘Days of miracle and wonder.’

Home again.



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