Thursday, August 3, 2017

An Ancestral Connection Between My Mother's Family and My Father's Family

This is what I used to think a family tree would look like, and it does in some cases. But research into my family history certainly makes it clear that our family isn't this simple. 

This is still a great chart to share with your child. If I had had something like this when I started looking into my own family, I might have saved some time. Years of research, maybe. Even now, I still don't have some of these basic blanks filled in for my father's father's part of the family.

In the last post, The Tale of Sarah Dawes, we met Sarah, her lover Daniel Mechrist, and their son Benoni Macrease, my 8th great grandfather on my father's side of the family.

As we saw, Sarah ended up married to John Cragin; he raised her children as his own and they had 8 more children together (and in wedlock).

And then: I saw a mention somewhere that a Sarah Cragin married a Francis Nurse. 

Now, my first reaction was that wasn't possible or accurate. Francis Nurse, over in my mother's family tree, was married to Rebecca Towne Nurse, who we met two posts ago in The Persecution of the Towne Family. Francis and Rebecca had a long marriage that ended only when Rebecca was accused of being a witch and executed. Francis was an elderly man of 74 at that time.

Ah, I wasn't thinking of the seemingly limited number of Biblical names, or the naming traditions in early New England. Every generation had a Sarah or two, and fathers like Francis Nurse named their sons after themselves, and their sons did the same. So there were a lot of Francis Nurses and a lot of Sarahs.

After a morning of poking around with documents and records, and with the two family trees open simultaneously on my laptop, here is what I found.

1. Francis Nurse I (1618-1695) and Rebecca Towne Nurse (1621-1692) had a son named Francis Nurse II (1660-1716).

2. John Cragin (About 1634-1708) and Sarah Dawes Cragin (1639-1725) had a daughter named Sarah Cragin (1664-1707).

3. The younger Francis, an ancestor from my mother's side of the family, and the younger Sarah, an ancestor from my father's side of the family, were married in 1685.

4. Francis II and his Sarah had 10 children. I'll bet they had another Sarah or a Francis among them.

5. If you are worried about genetic issues due to this connection of my parents' ancestors, don't be. It was all hundreds of years ago and anyway, John Cragin and Francis Nurse were both in-laws of my relatives, so I am not directly connected to either one by blood. I admire them greatly, though.

5. Don't you think it's funny that I randomly posted about these two families within two days before I realized how they were connected and how they complicated my family's trees?

Sources and Notes

I didn't mean to imply that it isn't a useful chart. It's perfect for a beginning record. 

2. Further sources: See notes for the two posts mentioned above. 

3. Many thanks to for making so many documents and records available online. 


  1. Wow - what a discovery! Is this rare or commonplace, do you suppose, when people dig back through eight or nine generations - a la six degrees of separation? I can't imagine that this happens very often.

    1. I just can't get my head around the probabilities. There was a smaller population then, so you'd think there would be a better chance. As a matter of fact, I've found that one of our father's ancestors married into a New Brunswick family with a very unusual name; our mother's New Brunswick parents were neighbors to a family with the same name. I'm looking into that.

      But since you mentioned Kevin Bacon's 6 degrees of separation, it might interest you to know that we are just 20 degrees from Kevin through our maternal grandmother's ancestors (; and we are 36 degrees from Anne Frank through our maternal grandfather (!


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