Barry's Relatively Speaking: A Serendipitous Relationship
Posted on Dec 31, 2012
Barry's Relatively Speaking shares the personal experiences and stories of genealogists found in the Everton Genealogical Helper Magazine collection on MyGenShare.com. Carol shares the following experience.
It will soon be fifteen years since I met Elizabeth Spelman. Our friendship was important to both of us, and when she mentioned that her father's middle name was Munson, I was intrigued. I told her my mother's maiden name was Munson, thinking we might be somehow related. She brushed aside my interest, explaining that the middle name is a common one for men in her family, having been used since the eighteenth century out of respect for a man who befriended one of her ancestors, but who was not related.
The matter was dropped until this past year when I became actively involved in tracing my lineage, and obtained the two volumes of The Munson Record. This sparked Betty's interest, and she got out her thick volume of the Spelman Genealogy.
The Spelman family has an illustrious ancestry, being related to Cardinal Spelman, and, in the less distant past, Laura Spelman Rockefeller (Mrs. John D.), to whom the
book is dedicated. The item in which I was most interested, however, is the following, which has been edited: "PHINEAS SPELMAN was born in Durham, Conn., 17 Oct., 1783, and died in Middletown, Conn., 28 April, 1817, married in Boston, Mass., 17 Jan., 1814, Elizabeth Austin Chamberlain, of that place. When he first settled in Boston he was employed in the shop of Israel Munson, who was a cousin of his mother. Soon afterwards, Mr. Spelman died at the age of thirty-four, while on a trip."
Phineas named his son Israel Munson Spelman, starting the tradition of using Munson for the middle name. In a letter to his sister, Nancy Spelman of Durham, written from Boston, December 9, 1803, Phineas reports:
"... you wished me to inform you what my evening amusements are - I am busy in the store until about 8 o'clock in the evening and then return to my lodgings, take supper and go to bed. I have attended meeting almost every Sunday since I left Durham with Mr. Munson at a
Dr. Kirkland's meeting. Mr. Munson has a pew there and I have attended no other meeting." Over 170 years after this letter was written, Betty and I met and became friends. Although the genealogy refers to Israel Munson being a cousin of his mother, who was Rhoda Camp, family name Campbell, I have not been able to trace this connection between the Munson and Spelman family.