About the Author

The story behind the research

I first became interested in family history following the death of my step-grandmother. Lillian (Barrett) Newton died on Sunday morning, July 3, 1977. She was 75. I was 15. My parents and I attended her funeral that Wednesday; and after the interment, our family gathered at my grandparents’ house in Homer, NY, sifting through photo albums and books and family treasures. That day my family archive was established.   

Of my grandfather’s possessions I received his World War I photos from basic training at Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, SC , some press clippings, his Purple Heart and the letter from the War Department which accompanied the medal. Of my grandmother’s possessions I claimed her rocking chair, and of my Grandma Lilly’s I received a black, leatherette-bound King James Version Bible.

Following the presentation page and those designated for Births, Marriages and Deaths was a two-page family pedigree chart. It was the first I had ever seen, and it was completely blank. One night during my recovery period from reconstructive knee surgery, I asked my mother to help me fill it in…just the names recorded by memory. Over the years my mother would tell me the family stories, many of which she has written down to preserve for her grandchildren and now for her great-grandson. 

The Bible remained tucked away in a bookcase for many years…untouched…forgotten. I graduated from Vestal Senior High in 1979…I attended UMASS/Amherst and graduated from Houghton College in 1983, and Cedric and I were married that June. Three children were born to us, and the youngest died as the result of a traffic/pedestrian accident on October 29, 1990. It was the day before my parents’ 36th Wedding Anniversary, and we had planned a dinner that night in their honor that never took place. For years my mind confused the two dates…blending an anniversary of a death with the anniversary of a marriage; but in 2004, it was to be my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary. As their only child, about six months before their special day, I began to think of what special gift I could give to them. 

Dad was a very private man. He had always said that if he hadn’t met my mother, he would’ve joined a monastery after his discharge from the U.S. Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps. My mother had grown up in Easton, PA and had two school chums who married and then moved to Washington, DC. Donald was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base and befriended my dad. At their urging, Dad went back to Easton with them on furlough and attended a Boy Scout Jamboree as Mom’s blind date. They had always said it was love at first sight. 

A 50th Anniversary Dinner Party was out of the question.

When our daughter attended JFK Middle School in Florence, MA, her 8th grade social studies teacher assigned a special year-end project. From a list of suggested activities, she chose to complete her family pedigree chart. Remembering Grandma Lilly’s Bible with the now completed pedigree chart, I searched the bookcases and found it. While the names were all there, the chart lacked the historical evidence to meet requirements, so I called Mom to enlist her help.

She found copies of the Newton family history that Dad’s Aunt Helen (Newton) Beers had researched. She had gone back four generations to Nahum Newton md. 6 May 1778 in Marlborough, MA to Damaris Brigham, daughter of Noah & Miriam (Allen) Brigham. Mom also checked the Mosher Family Bible, inscribed with generations of my maternal grandmother’s ancestry, and consulted her cousin Ralph Cangson’s book, Mayflower Pilgrims and their Descendants, Volume I, 1989 Revised, Orange County Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California

From those first two Our Family Tree pages in Grandma Lilly’s Bible, our daughter’s project took on new dimensions. She composed a chart of approximately 24 inches x 36 inches. The detail was astonishing, yet revealing. We knew so much about the NEWTON and KING lineages, but very little about the African-American CARTER, Welsh JONES, and Jewish/Eastern European SILVERMAN branches.

For Mom & Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary gift, that would become my undertaking. I had all the hope that I would be able to “finish” the project which had taken my aunt and my cousin years to accomplish. Little did I know the direction it would take me, nor the passion that I would develop for family history research. 

Being an unpublished writer, I had prayed and asked the Lord for two things through my research: 
  1.   That my sense of family would be broadened and that I would be able to connect with living descendants, and  
  2. That I would discover the family stories that I was to write for publication.
God has been faithful! I have connected with cousins from close-by branches of our tree and with cousins from distant branches…and in all, family is family! My cousin Ralph Cangson had once said,  
“The more we work on our family history the more we see that 
we are all connected.” 

I believe he was right.

Dad died two months before their 50th Wedding Anniversary from metastatic optic melanoma, but since then the research and connections have grown tremendously!

--Debra


PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
·         July 2008: Elected Charles Spencer Livingston Branch Historian, Co-Branch Coordinator, Prince Livingston Family Reunion Committee.
·         May 2008: Applied for National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholar Fellowship: Migration and Settlement Patterns of Free Negroes in Colonial America, Part I: The Southern Colonies, 1728-1790.
·         July 2007: Presented The Land Deeds of Theophilus George, father of Emanuel, James Bland, Nathaniel, Martha Ann, and Nancy George at the 2007 George Family Reunion, Harlowe, NC.
·         May 2007: Applied for National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholar Fellowship: The Descendants of peter George Negro and Paull Carter & wife: the enslavement, emancipation, and migration of two families from Accomack County, Virginia to Craven County, North Carolina, 1640-1958.
·         2004-2010: Served as Co-Historian, George Family Reunion Committee.
·         2004-2007: Researched and compiled an exhaustive history: The Descendants of Capt. John King, a founder of Northampton, Massachusetts.
·         Since 2002: Conducted genealogical and historical research according to genealogical proof and historical evidence standards.
·         Since 2002: Established rapport with professional historians, genealogists, archivists and authors.
·         
EDUCATION
BA in English Writing and Psychology (double major)
Houghton College, Houghton, NY

Senior Thesis: The Authoritarian Personality in Organizational Psychology: A Case Study
Theories of Counseling Project: Child and Family Therapy: A 100 Source Annotated Bibliography