A spiral-bound notebook lined with handwritten entries is the best read I’ve ever had and it’s held my interest in the few years I’ve possessed it, luring me back to check for clues like an unsolved mystery.

A page of the notebook in which Susan Pierter’s paternal great-great-grandfather wrote down his family’s genealogy. Photo courtesy of Susan Pierter

In pencil, my paternal great-great-grandfather accounted for his family’s lineage, labeling the top of each section on the ruled pages with a family name followed by descendants. His cursive is elegant and decipherable on the yellowed pages in the small black Sterling notebook.

He passed away in 1944 at the age of 82, so jumping on the computer and doing a quick search was not among the tools available to him.

It struck me that when he wrote the page titled “Samuel Hinckley,” he did not know that three U.S. presidents would be elected – George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – who are also descended from Samuel Hinckley. But he did include Hinckley’s son, Gov. Thomas Hinckley of the Plymouth Colony, in the lineage.

I learned about the journal only after my mother found it while cleaning out my childhood home. My Maine-born grandmother gave it to her decades ago, noting that it showed how my father’s family was descended from John and Priscilla Alden. Like a keepsake, she kept it safe. But I was excited to unpack this treasure.

Within a week of receiving it I carefully copied the contents from a page titled “John Alden” and sent it to the experts for verification. Turns out the lineage was not entirely correct, but with modern search tools, I was later able to find the right path to certify through the Alden Kindred of America. This had special significance to me and my sisters because we grew up in Duxbury, Massachusetts, home of the Alden homestead. And I know our grandmother would greatly appreciate the efforts.

My two-times-great-grandfather passed along an appreciation for those who came before us. His journal continues to intrigue with new discoveries. Because of this small keepsake, treasured for generations, I now know that my three-times-great-grandfather – a carpenter born in Parsonsfield, Maine – built a number of notable buildings in Quincy, Massachusetts, including the stable at the (President) Adams Mansion and the home of President John Quincy Adams’ son Charles, who served as ambassador to Great Britain.

And we’re descended from the families from Ireland and Scotland that settled in Brunswick – the Clan Giveen, and Capt. Thomas Campbell, who led the 1st Infantry Company of the newly created Maine Militia from 1776 to 1786.

Turns out my American roots are in the soil from Cape Cod to Bangor, and date back to the mid-1700s in Maine. I know that doesn’t make me a native in my adopted state, but my Maine-born husband gets a kick out of the fact that he married a girl from away, but really not that far.

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