Monday, May 13, 2013

Edwin Martin Currier - Part 1, The Letters

In my ongoing search of family history I came across two letters written in 1871 by a gentleman named Edwin Martin Currier. I found the letters inside a folder of  miscellaneous family history material I inherited from my mother.  There were no envelopes with the letters to identify the addressee.  But since my mother's maiden name was Currier and after reading the letters it was obvious that Edwin had addressed them to someone in the Currier family.  Edwin stated that he was "now writing to the various branches of the family who were descendants from Deacon Nathaniel Currier of Pelham." (Pelham is a town in New Hampshire).  Edwin went on to say, "I have formed the plan of writing a genealogical record of the Curriers."  This statement grabbed my attention right away. I was curious to find out who Edwin Currier was and, if possible, find out the results of his planned genealogy research of the Currier family.

Letter # 1 - Nov. 2nd, '71

My first step in researching the letters was to try to figure out just who Edwin Martin Currier was. I had not heard the name in my previous research of my mother's family so I didn't know if Edwin was a close relative of my mother or if, as Edwin mentioned, he was from one of "the various branches of the family"  descending from Nathaniel.  The name Nathaniel rang a bell as my grandfather, Marshall Currier, (1868 -1957) had done some family history research and even drawn up his own rendition of the Currier family tree depicting Nathaniel Currier, his great great grandfather, four branches below his own.

Currier family tree per Marshall Currier
So Edwin and my grandfather were apparently descended from Nathaniel. Just how Edwin figured in to all this was explained by Edwin's question to the addressee, "Do you remember your cousin, James H. Currier who lived in Pelham?"  And this was followed by his statement, "Well, I am his younger son, at present residing with my parents in this city." ("This city" was identified as Lowell, Mass. in the closing of the letter). Armed with these clues it wasn't too difficult a search to determine that Edwin Martin Currier, son of James Hale Currier was a great grandson of Nathaniel Currier of Pelham, NH.  I searched in and discovered that Edwin was born Martin Edwin Currier in 1844 per the "New Hampshire , Births and   Christenings Index, 1714 - 1904"  and was listed as the son of a James H. Currier and a mother named Dorothy P Currier. The first and middle name switcheroo didn't surprise me as I'd seen numerous examples of the same thing in my family history research (not the least of which was my father who was born George Charles but subsequently lived his life as Charles George). Another small bump in the road during my initial investigation of Edwin was the fact that he was listed on the 1850 Federal Census for Pelham, NH as a five year old female named Martha E Currier!  Little Martha was listed along with (his/her) father, James H. Currier, mother, Dorothy, older brother, James W., and older sister, Dorothy E. Currier (who, as it turned out also reversed her first and middle name and became Emeline or Emma depending on the document concerned)! The pedigree chart for Edwin's link to Nathaniel Currier ended up looking like below:

Edwin Martin Currier - Family Tree
The ascendancy from Nathaniel Currier took separate paths by Edwin's "branch" and my grandfather's "branch" at the junction of the tree containing two brothers, both sons of Nathaniel.  Nathaniel had eleven children according to my research. His fourth child was a son named Joseph, born in 1773 in Pelham.  Joseph eventually moved to Langdon, New Hampshire (a little over 100 miles from Pelham) and raised a family there that came to include my grandfather in one branch of the Curriers. Nathaniel's ninth child, Jonathan, was born in 1787 also in Pelham.  Jonathan remained in Pelham his entire life and one of his children was Edwin's father, James Hale Currier. Thus, Edwin's branch of the Curriers started in and continued in Pelham, at least through the 1860's, eventually relocating to Lowell where Edwin's letters indicated the young man's interest in family history research.

Edwin's letter dated November 2nd, '71 wasn't bashful about asking for detailed family history that he described as "all needful information that you can get respecting the members of your father's much as you can."  I've tried that approach with "branches" of my family with varying degrees of success so I can empathize with Edwin's request and attention to detail. Having to do much of his research by mail was a huge endeavor so Edwin won my respect and admiration when I read his letters.  It appears his inquiry met with success as evidenced by the second letter, this one dated November 10th. In the second letter Edwin acknowledges receipt of a response to his first letter "in good time" and remarks "I am glad to learn of the interest that you take in my contemplated work."  

Letter # 2 - Nov 10th
The letter from the 10th is pretty good evidence of some fast and efficient mail service. Or at least I'm assuming it was postal service but I don't have envelopes to verify they were mailed. I'm also assuming the letters were sent to Langdon from Edwin's address in Lowell, MA. Otherwise, why would they have been saved with my grandfather's research material?  Like Pelham, the distance between Langdon and Lowell was a little over 100 miles.  Without envelope evidence and without anyone  named in the salutation except "Dear Sir" I also will have to make some assumptions regarding  who the letters were addressed to.  There were four male Curriers residing in Langdon that could be presumed to be the addressee. My grandfather, Marshall, born in 1868 would have been three years old in 1871. Another son of John Currier, John Morrison Currier, was only seven years old   at the time. So neither of the two young Curriers would have been addressees.  My grandfather's father, Austin Currier (1838 - 1902) would have been 33 years old so he's a possibility. Austin's father, John Currier (1808 - 1883) age 63 when the letters were written is also a possible addressee. Both Austin and John would have been cousins of James H. Currier, albeit John a first cousin and Austin a second cousin. Both resided in Langdon. Austin was more or less the same generation as Edwin as they were only born six years apart. But based on Edwin's comments I believe the letters were addressed to  Austin's father, John Currier. In letter # 1 Edwin asks, "Do you remember your cousin, James H. Currier who lived in Pelham?"  I think John would have more reason to remember a cousin born in the same year as he (1808) and in the same town his father was born in.  Also in letter #1 Edwin asks for information "respecting the members of your father's family."  It seems most reasonable to me that Edwin's reference to "your father's family" would be addressed to John Currier, son of  the Joseph Currier who was born in Pelham but resettled in Langdon. So, right or wrong, that's my take on who was the addressee of Edwin's letters.  I tried to carry my investigation one step further in the hopes I could corroborate my conclusions about John by looking up John Currier's diary entries for the time period in question. (I am fortunate to have inherited a number of my great great grandfather's diaries ranging from 1865 to 1883). I reviewed John's daily comments for all of November 1871 and, in case I had the year wrong, performed the same review for years 1872 through 1875.  No mention was made of any communication with Edwin Martin Currier. John's diary entries were typically a short and concise recap of each day's events.  He pretty much stuck with what I would call the three W', worship, and weather.  Not a lot of flowery descriptions by a man who was probably a pretty busy fellow with a  primary occupation of operating his farm while simultaneously serving as a town selectman and Langdon's undertaker.

John Currier diary entries for Nov 4 & 5, 1871
         In the diary entries pictured above John drew two loads of wood on one day and attended two church services the following day, a Sunday. Sunday's entry capped by "bad weather."  These are typical entries.  I was hopeful there would be some sort of acknowledgement about the letters from Edwin but no such luck. Edwin's letters and John's diaries are the are the only family history related documents I've uncovered so far to aid my research about Edwin Martin Currier.  To find out more I would have to continue my search online to see what I could discover about this family history buff who preceded my own searching by nearly one and a half centuries.  I felt a kinship between Edwin and myself that went beyond him being my 2nd cousin 3 times removed.  He was a genealogy nut just like me!  I wanted to know more about him and how successful his "contemplated work" turned out. And to that end, my search goes on.