Sunday, November 8, 2020


This morning's earthquake in New Bedford, Massachusetts, is a reminder that earthquakes can happen in New England.  

Decades ago, when I was living in earthquake-prone California, and married to a seismologist, I was very conscious of earthquakes. For a while I volunteered in our city's earthquake preparedness efforts, educating people about appropriate preparations and supplies to keep on hand, in case "the big one" came.

My father, visiting from New England, brought me his copy of The Holyoke Diaries, 1709-1858. I didn't have time then to read that book, but later became curious. I thought it would be interesting to read diary entries from family members so long ago.  In truth, those diaries entries were disappointingly short and cryptic, needing other clues to round out a story.  I was fascinated, however, to see many mentions of earthquakes.  I began to write those entries on a piece of paper...

Today, I reached up in my bookshelf, pulled down the old volume, and was pleased to see that my piece of paper was still tucked in front.  

My notes include these 11 New England earthquakes noted by Rev. Edward Holyoke in his diary: 

  • June 3, 1744  City shook of an earthquake  (p. 7)
  • Nov. 18, 1755  A very great Earthquake at 4h 13'  (p. 15)
  • Nov. 22, 1755  A considerable Shock of an Earthquake 8:30 P.M. (p. 15)
  • Dec. 19, 1755  A small Shock of a Earthquake at 10h 15'  P.M. (p. 15)
  • July 8, 1757  A considerable Shock of an Earthquake 2h 17' P.M.  (p. 17)
  • Feb. 2, 1759  An Earthquake  2h 2'  Mane circa.  (p. 20) 
  • Nov. 9, 1760  A Small Earthquake 8h 30' Mane circa. (p. 23)
  • Mar. 12, 1761  A very considerable Shock of an Earthquake about 2. 19 morn (p. 23)
  • Nov. 1, 1761 A Considerable Earthquake 8. 12 P.M. (p. 25)
  • Jan 23, 1766  An Earthquake 5:30 Morn. (p. 29)
  • Oct. 15, 1767  A small Earthquake circa 11h A.M. (p 29)
His son, Edward Augustus Holyoke, also kept a dairy and noted earthquakes on June 3, 1744 and Feb 4, 1746 ("A smal Earthquake as Some Say at 1-2").

As I typed up my notes, I consulted the Diaries, and made a few necessary corrections. This list above is more accurate than my handwritten notes shown in the photo.  I also searched on the Internet to learn more about some of these earthquakes. Here's a good overview of the history of earthquakes in Massachusetts:

From 1668 through 2016, Massachusetts had a total of 408 felt earthquakes!  The northeast US has had over 2000 in that period. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Siblings of an ancestor

A recent inquiry about a detail in one of my older blog entries caused me to do a bit of investigation before answering. So I logged into the genealogical website and looked at the family tree that my daughter has been maintaining there since 2016. I had contributed information from a genealogical chart that my mother had filled out in the 1960's, but of course I don't remember all those names, dates, and connections. made it easy for me to find the name in question and to look for associated family members such as parents and siblings.

For the first time, I decided to see what siblings (if any) my ancestor Sarah Warren had had. Well! I learned a lot. According to the MyHeritage tree that I viewed, Sarah was the 10th child born to her mother, Margaret (Bayly) Warren, who lived from 1587 to 1662.

Sarah was born "circa 1643" (exact date not given). The nine children born before her were MANY years before her. Three had died young (born 1615, 1617, and 1620); six were adults or teenagers by the time Sarah was born. I wonder about that gap in time, and whether she knew any of her siblings well.  

From information on MyHeritage, I see that all her siblings had been born in Nayland, Suffolk, England. Her parents came to America in 1630. Did all those siblings come too?

Sarah died in 1692 in a Boston jail. I wonder if any of her siblings had been in touch with her in her later years. How much did they know about the terrible happenings in Salem Village in 1692?  Sarah (Mrs. Osborne by then) was accused of witchcraft, arrested, and taken on horseback to the Boston jail. Later, a bill from the jail for the cost of her chains and food was sent to her family.

Here is a list of the Warren siblings who were alive during Sarah's lifetime:

Susan (1612-1667)

John (1622-1703), known as Capt. John Warren

Mary (1624-1691)

Daniel John (1627-1715)

Peter (1628-1704)

Elizabeth (1629-1715)

Of course I could look up each of these names, and hope to learn locations where they married or died. That's a project for another day.  Probably some readers of this blog will already know the answers. The case of accused-witch Sarah Warren Prince Osborne is so well-known that there may be many writings about her family of origin. I've never before turned my attention in that direction. Now I'm curious.

Monday, September 28, 2020

My Name

As a child I assumed that my name was unique, referring only to me. The idea that another person could have the same name had never occurred to me.

Then one day, while reading a magazine, I saw my name on the printed page, as the signer of a letter. "Sandy Nichols" had written a letter from Wyoming. How could that be possible?  I recall that she was my age, and pictured with a horse. I've forgotten which magazine (probably either American Girl, or Seventeen), but I've never forgotten the surprise of that discovery. 

Another discovery came during a formal event in Salem sometime later. I'd been invited to a dinner and dance at Hamilton Hall, a new experience for me. The dinner tables were set with fancy silverware and glassware, and little name cards (place cards) to designate where each person was to sit. As I looked for my name and the name of the young man who had invited me, I was shocked to find "Sandy Nichols" at the HEAD of one of the big tables. Oops!  That can't be me! And it wasn't. A man with the nickname "Sandy" was the intended person for the prominent seat at the head of the table.  Phew! I was relieved to find my real seat elsewhere beside my date. We laughed about the name confusion.

Yesterday, in the Death Notices section of our local newspaper, I spotted my name again. Right at the top was a Sandra Nichols, referred to as "Sandy." She was younger, with a different birth name; Nichols was her married name. Still, it was jolt to recognize my birth name among the death notices.

Today, searching on social media, I've found other examples, of course. One young woman seems to share many of my interests. Maybe I'll send her a note.  Or, perhaps it is best to leave her alone. She might still believe her own name is unique, and I wouldn't want to spoil that.