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You Never Know Who You'll Find In Your Family Tree

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You Never Know Who You’ll Find In Your Family Tree

By Shannon Hicks

Joyce DeWolfe began looking into her family history a few years ago. Like most people, she had no idea where her research would lead her.

Unlike most, however, the longtime resident discovered that her family can trace its roots right back to one of Newtown’s most historic figures. It turns out Joyce is a distant relative of Newtown benefactress Mary Elizabeth Hawley. Joyce is the fifth cousin, once removed, of Miss Hawley.

“I think that’s just so funny,” Joyce said last week, sitting in the dining room of her Boggs Hill Road home with volumes of paper spread before her and the framed document that started much of her curiosity: the marriage certificate, with accompanying newspaper write-up and photograph, of her grandparents, Ethel Corey and Henry B. Buck.

Henry Buck died when Joyce’s mother, Arlene (Buck) Hixson, was very young, maybe 10 years old, believes Joyce.

“This is what started it all,” she said. “My mother didn’t know her father very well at all. She knew her stepfather, but I always wondered what her real father was like.”

Joyce and Aubrey DeWolfe moved to Newtown nearly 50 years ago. Joyce certainly did not expect her family history to circle right back to the town where she and her husband raised their two children, Virginia and Mark. But it did. Joyce had a hint a few months ago that she was related to the celebrated Miss Hawley, but did not receive confirmation until just recently.

Working backward from her grandfather and his marriage license, Joyce traced back to a Joseph Buck, her great-great-great grandfather. Joseph, it turns out, married a Hannah Hard. Hannah’s parents were Zadock Hard and Chloe Noble.

Newtown Vital Records (NVR) traces (among other families) the Hard family, and in NVR Volume I, page 9, Joyce discovered that Zadock and Chloe’s union had produced a child, Hannah, who was born in Newtown and died in Canada.

“My mother was from Canada,” said Joyce, continuing, “How did we ever expect to find anyone in Newtown related to us?! When we found that notation about Hannah being from Newtown I nearly fell off my chair!”

When Joyce presented some of her findings to Newtown’s town historian, Dan Cruson had his own “Eureka!” moment.

“He looked at what I found, and seven generations back he recognized the name Zadock Hard,” said Joyce.

Mr Cruson “figured out the Hard connection,” which is that Zadock is a direct descendant of James Hard. James married Hannah Kimberly. When Joyce DeWolfe made a trip to Danbury Probate Court to look through historic records just a few weeks ago, she found a copy of James’s will, which named Abner and Zadock as two of his sons.

“That was the missing link,” she said. “We knew that Zadock and Abner were somehow related to James. We had seen their names together in other places, but couldn’t prove it before we saw that will. Getting that information from the probate court gave us that missing link, connecting the Hard and Beers families.”

“The Hard family was a prominent family here in Newtown,” Mr Cruson said this week. “They were headquartered in the southeast section of town, off Route 34. I recognized that name and I started to show [Joyce] the vital records and so forth.”

On page 20 of NVR Volume 1 is the notation that on August 20, 1740, Abner Hard married Hannah Beers (Beers being another familiar name among those who follow Newtown’s history). The lineage continues, with another very familiar name, Cyrenius H. Booth — of C.H. Booth Library fame — appearing three generations later, making him a third cousin, three times removed from Joyce. (Booth’s middle name, in fact, was Hard, Mr Cruson pointed out. “Those families were intermarried,” he said.)

Two generations later comes the name Mary Hawley.

“Dan pointing out that connection [between Zadock Hard and his relatives in Newtown], rather quickly, was wonderful,” said Joyce. “It would have taken me another year, but we were at the library and he recognized that name. He went right to a book and said, ‘Look, this is him!’”

It turns out Joyce’s family is also related to the founding fathers of New Milford. Six generations back are Joyce’s great-great-great-great-grandparents, Zadock Hard and Chloe Noble. Chloe is a direct descendant of John Noble, who arrived in the area from Westfield, Mass., and settled in 1707 in what is now New Milford.

Finding Her Way Around

In researching her family tree, Joyce DeWolfe has spent countless hours at the town library named after her third cousin, three times removed and she has done a lot of work online.

“There’s a lot of stuff on the Internet,” she said.

There has also been a trip to the Research Library at The Church of Latter-Day Saints on Saw Mill Road, where some of her family’s records can be found, along with a trip to the Connecticut State Library to track down a lead on the Buck family.

About a year ago, Joyce joined the Genealogy Club of Newtown. The club is open to anyone interested in genealogical research. It supports the efforts of Booth Library in its areas of genealogy and assists in the upkeep of the library’s Genealogy Room collection.

Mr Cruson and club member Harlan Jessup can often be found in the Genealogy Room most Monday afternoons.

The group meets on the second Wednesday of each month, September through June.

“I cannot say enough about that club,” Joyce said. “They have excellent programs. Sometimes they’re general, sometimes they’re related to a specific family or subject, and it’s always fascinating.

“I’ve listened to everything,” she said. “They’ve been very helpful. I’ve learned how to organize stuff as well as where to find things.

“The whole thing with genealogy is about the journey, it’s so interesting,” Joyce said. “There isn’t a destination. You can always keep learning.

“You never know what’s around the next corner — that’s the idea!,” she continued. “The stuff you can get on the Internet and at libraries, it’s amazing. And it’s all free. It’s been just fascinating.”

Joyce has also been certified as a descendant of Lemuel Buck, a patriot of the American Revolution. This, therefore, has given her admission into Daughters of the American Revolution. Her Certificate of Acceptance into DAR has become part of Joyce’s research papers.

Another Unexpected Benefit

When she visited the Connecticut State Library in Hartford last year, the librarian Joyce worked with showed her the Buck family monograph. The paper had been written by Donald T. Buck, a former professor at Southern Connecticut State University. Mr Buck, Joyce also discovered, is still alive. He and his wife, Marion, live in southeastern Connecticut.

Turns out Joyce’s grandfather and Mr Buck’s grandfather were brothers, which makes Joyce and Mr Buck second cousins.

“I called him up last summer and said, ‘Hey Donald Buck, I think we’re related,’” she laughed. Joyce and her husband took a drive to meet Mr Buck and his wife,

“It was so nice, he was so cordial,” Joyce said. The couples exchanged Christmas cards this past holiday season, and earlier this week Donald and Marion Buck drove to Newtown so that Donald could personally present a copy of his Buck family monograph to Harlan Jessup. The monograph is now part of the library’s genealogy collection.

“This has been so much fun,” Joyce said of her genealogy work and its results. “I have many interests, and this is just a new one, but it’s been such fun. Every time you turn around with this stuff, it cracks another whole area open.

“Every place you turn there’s a new discovery. Mary Hawley was a complete surprise.”

Jump Start Your Genealogy

The Connecticut Ancestry Society, Inc and the Genealogy Club of Newtown invite those who are interested in genealogy, especially those who have already started researching their family tree and may have hit a bump in the road, to take advantage of The Ancestor Road Show.

The special program will take place Saturday, April 10, at Cyrenius H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street.

Between 10 am and 2 pm, members of the Connecticut Professional Genealogists Council will be available to talk family history research, free of charge.

Attendees can ask about getting started in genealogy, how to find a difficult ancestor, immigration and naturalization, how to organize genealogy, where to find records, what to do when you get stuck in research, and more.

Admission is free, but reservations must be made so that CPGC members have time to prepare answers, as well as to make sure everyone has an equal amount of time with an expert.

Register by sending an email to Mary Maki at rlmmem@sbcglobal.net or call her at 203-426-3889 and leave a message indicating time of day would be best. Mrs Maki will contact each person to schedule an appointment and determine the topic to be discussed.

Dan Cruson thinks there is good reason for people to look up their ancestry.

“I think it’s a genetic imperative,” he laughed. “I really do. There’s something very satisfying in knowing who your ancestors were. This attachment that you have for kin is a close one.”

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