Links to Collaborative Genealogy Sites

In the interest of seeing that our family tree, the actual genealogical “who, when, and where” is preserved, I have placed some of the research that went into this blog on five websites, four of which actually aim to piece together, person by person, a single family tree for everyone. Taken literally, that is wildly ambitious, not to mention completely impractical, but the effort alone has already produced, flaws and shortcomings notwithstanding, a very special body of research.

These “collaborative” genealogy sites are Geni, WikiTree, WeRelate, and FamilySearch. Each is a little different.

For example, Geni and WikiTree make room for all relatives including living people and then add privacy controls. WeRelate, meanwhile, has decided to forego information on living people and just focus on the near past. Geni makes little use of sources or documentation, but WikiTree and especially WeRelate strive, with varying success, to back up all assertions with primary documents. There are plenty of other differences, but that’s the gist of it.

The main point is that putting the information here means it will survive even in generations when no one inherits an interest in family history– something I see as increasingly  likely.

Here are some jumping off points, categorized first by site, and then by a few key relatives…














Finally, I said there are five sites. The fifth is, which somewhat sadly, has a paywall and curious people cannot simply click over to peruse the material at will. You can see it without a financial outlay, but to do so you’ll have to email me or Elisha Lee to be put on a list of invitees. Sorry, I didn’t make up those rules. If you are already on Ancestry, you can search for our tree which is called Kinsmen and Kinswomen (revised and sourced). [18,000 relatives and counting.] On the plus side, looking for a silver lining, the highly commercial aspect of Ancestry has paid huge dividends in making a vast trove of documents available online, including – in most cases – photocopies of originals. This includes birth certificates, marriage entries in the parish register, passport applications, draft registrations, VA records, medical examiners’ notes, high school yearbooks, biographical vignettes, and on and on. People can also share multiple digital copies of rare family photos.  There really is nothing like it for primary research.

At some point in the distant future, I’ll figure out how to put a version of our tree here, on this site, with measures in place to protect people’s privacy, but until then, the organizations above will have to suffice.

Photographs from Helen, Margaret, and Howard Swain’s Childhood, c.1905-1925

In an earlier post, we glimpsed the life of a boy, Rodgers Burgin, growing up in Quincy at the very start of the 20th century.

This is the life his future wife, Helen Swain, and her siblings were leading, more or less contemporaneously, in town at 226 Commonwealth Ave., at their grandfather’s house in Exeter, and on the beach in Cohasset.


HTS and children


In no particular order. Memory, I find, skips back and forth anyway…


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Exeter Cemetery, Exeter, NH

Boopie and Gagie are here.

Address: Linden St, Exeter, NH 03833

Dr Howard Townsend Swain, Sr

Birth:  May 16, 1868 Bath, Steuben County, New York
Death:  Dec. 6, 1936 Boston, Massachusetts

Plot: Lot 224 B
Find A Grave Memorial# 145938412

Harriet French Swain

Birth:  May 28, 1868 Exeter, New Hampshire
Death:  Jul. 16, 1958 Milton, Massachusetts

Plot: Lot 224 B
Find A Grave Memorial# 145938467



Map of Exeter Cemetery


Sperry French

Ebenezer Sperry French, father of Harriet French, was the principal of the grammar school in Exeter, NH for fifty years.  Elisha Lee has it on good authority that he was the basis for the character of “Old Francis” in Henry A. Shute’s The Real Diary of a Real Boy. (Free text available online here; a PDF of an original edition is available here; a copy can be purchased here).

Named after his father’s sister’s husband, Rev. Ebenezer Peck Sperry, he was called “Sperry” by family.  (In midlife, he went to the effort of actually dropping “Ebenezer” from his name– legally. There is a listing in the Laws of the State of NH announcing that “Ebenezer Sperry French may take the name of Sperry French.”)

It’s amazing to see him in photos with Nana (Helen Swain Burgin) and Aunt Magna (Margaret Swain Beecher), and think that his father was born during the American Revolution.





Left to right: Helen Swain, Margaret Swain, and Sperry French

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Two Discourses and a Sermon by Rev. Jonathan French, Jr.





  1. A Discourse Delivered At Northampton, New Hampshire, November 18, 1821: Being Twenty Years From The Author’s Settlement
  2. A sermon preached at Concord before His Excellency Samuel Bell, governor, the Honourable Council, Senate, and House of Representatives, of the state … June 6, 1822, being the anniversary election.
  3. Reminiscences of a Fifty-Years Pastorate: A Half-Century Discourse, Delivered in North-Hampton, N. H. November 18, 1851



Rev. Jonathan French, D.D.

Jonathan French, the Revolutionary war surgeon and pastor, had a son of the same name. He spent his professional life as the minister to the congregation in North Hampton/  Northampton.

Here, in succession, are two period accounts of his life.

There is a third– It can be found in a modern book titled, The Way It Was in North Hampton: Some History, Sketches, and Reminiscences That Illuminate the Times of a New Hampshire Seacoast Townby Stillman Moulton Hobbspubl. 1994. It is available as a used book on Amazon, here.



History of Rockingham and Strafford counties, New Hampshire : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men

by Hurd, D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton), publ. 1882

pp. 415-417




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Assorted Sermons and Discourses of Rev. Jonathan French, Sr.

Jonathan French Sr.’s sermons have survived, but they are somewhat hard to find. Here, in the form of some admittedly poor reproductions, are six.


[The titles below are clickable hyperlinks, and will take you to PDFs of the actual texts.–LSL]




  1. A practical discourse against extortion, from Ezekiel XXII, 12. Delivered at a lecture in the South Parish in Andover, January 1, 1777. Published at the desire of the hearers.
  2. A sermon preached before His Excellency Samuel Adams, Esq. governour; His Honor Moses Gill, lieutenant-governour; the Honourable the Council, Senate, … Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 25, 1796.
  3. A sermon delivered on the anniversary thanksgiving November 29, 1798: with some additions in the historical part.
  4. A sermon, preached at the ordination of the Reverend James Kendall, over the First Church and Congregation in Plymouth, January 1, 1800.
  5. A sermon preached at the ordination of the Rev. Jonathan French, Jun.: over the church and congregation in Northampton, in Newhampshire [sic], November 18, 1801.
  6. A discourse delivered at an evening lecture, in the South Meetinghouse, in Portsmouth, N.H. 21 July, 1805: it being the evening succeeding the session … of the Reverend Timothy Alden, Junior.



  1. A sermon, preached September 23, 1772, at the ordination of the Reverend Jonathan French, to the pastoral charge of the Second Church of Christ in … Pastor of the Second Church in Braintree. by Weld, Ezra [Not a sermon by French, but rather the sermon preached by Ezra Weld at French’s ordination. Included because, well, just because… –LSL]
  2. A Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions, Vol. 2: With Occasional Notes; Pentade I.  by Alden, Timothy  [Also not a sermon by French, but this is THE Alden bio of French, the one I used for the previous post, just in a different volume.–LSL]



The Life of Jonathan French (1740-1809), As Told By Timothy Alden

As the preceding post might suggest, French was a fascinating man. But he lived at a time when few New Englanders wrote memoirs, or were celebrated in an individual way. We are lucky that the Rev. Timothy Alden felt French’s life was sufficiently important to merit any biography at all, however brief.

I won’t say this text was almost lost to history, but that wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. It took me three weeks of looking to locate it.

The first version of Alden’s text is cited below; it is the original, which is next to impossible to find outside of an academic library:

Memoirs of the late Rev. Jonathan French, A.M. of Andover, in Massachusetts, who departed this life suddenly, 28th July, 1809.–Æt. 70.

by Timothy Alden, publ. 1810

A WorldCat library citation is available here.

The second version is actually from an anthology of sorts of Alden’s writings, but is more readily available:

A collection of American epitaphs and inscriptions, with occasional notes 

by Timothy Alden, publ. 1814

This can be read here.

I’ll lead off with an OCR/ digital version of the text. So that search engines can find it, and young students doing research for a school paper, etc., can have something to copy and paste from.

I have also included, though, at the end, the images of the original document.

As I said, this man deserves to be remembered, and I want to do as much as I can to help that happen.


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Jonathan French: Soldier, Surgeon, Minister

If I had to pick a single ancestor whose life trajectory I most admire, it would have to be this man. As a youth, he volunteered for and fought in the French and Indian War. In his young adulthood, he was a respected surgeon. And from the middle of his life to the end, he was a beloved minister. That, to me, is the trifecta of use to one’s community; offering at each distinct stage of his passage through this world what he best had to give.

If these next few posts can encourage in others a fraction of the respect I feel for him, and help to keep his name and his example alive, I’ll view this site as having been worth the time.



Historical Sketches of Andover (comprising the present towns of North Andover and Andover), by Bailey, Sarah Loring, 1880

Rev. Jonathan French, 1740-1809

pp. 279

A relic of the military service of Rev. Jonathan French, in this war, has been found among his papers, in possession of his descendants at Andover, — an Almanac which has his name and “Castle William” written on it. It is for the year 1761. It contains the following verses on the victories of our arms, which, no doubt, thrilled the sensibilities of the then Sergeant French : —

“How shall my muse in proper lines express Our Northern Armies Valour and Success? While I am writing comes the joyful news Which cheers my heart anew inspires my muse. Our three brave armies at Montreal meet, A conquest of New France they three compleat. To God we owe the Triumphs of the Day ; New France submits to George’s gentle sway. May Lewis that proud tyrant never more. Bear any rule upon this northern shore !”



The day of the Battle of Bunker Hill and the night which followed, were full of terrible anxiety and suspense to the friends trembling for the fate of their kindred and townsfolk. From the high hills they strained their eyes to catch a glimpse of coming messengers, and watched the lurid fires of the burning city stream up on the horizon, while the incessant booming of the cannon made even stout hearts quail and all tremble for the fate of friends on the battle-field.

The next day was the Sabbath; but who could sit down in the meeting-house and listen to sermons, or compose his mind for the duty of public prayer, however devout he might be! Concerning the state of things, the pastor of the South Church, the Rev. Jonathan French, writes: —

“Our houses of public worship were generally shut up. It was the case here. When the news of the battle reached us, the anxiety and distress of wives and children, of parents, of brothers, sisters, and friends was great. It was not known who were among the slain or living, the wounded or the well. It was thought justifiable for us who could to repair to the camp to know the circumstances, to join in the defence of the country and prevent the enemy from pushing the advantages they had gained, and to afford comfort and relief to our suffering brethren and friends.”

With surgical instruments, for he was a practical surgeon, and musket, for he was a trained soldier, and Bible, as became his profession, the Rev. Dr. French made his Sabbath day’s journey to the camp, and rendered valuable aid there in ministering to the wounded and the dying.

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