Six degrees of Mom

I think most people are familiar with the “six degrees of separation” idea- the suggestion that you are connected to everyone else in the world by no more than six individual connections. Whether or not that’s actually true, it is kind of interesting to see how closely people are connected. In particular, I was curious how far back in time can you go to find connections.

I decided to see how far back Mom’s connections go. I’m defining “connection” sort of loosely, assuming that individuals who were closely related, and lived in the same time period and general location, were acquainted with each other.

Mom didn’t know any of her grand-parents. All of them died before she was born with the exception of Mary Alice (Smith) Dunn, her paternal grandmother, who died in July 1922, when Mom was just 7 months old.

The home of Walter and Etta Scott, and Mildred Dunn
The home of Walter and Etta Scott, and Mildred Dunn

Mom did, however, know Mary Alice’s sister, Etta Smith, whom Mom knew as “Aunt Et”, and whom she remembers visiting when she was growing up. Etta was born in 1861 in Jaffrey. In 1881, she married Walter A. Scott, a Massachusetts native whose family had moved to a farm in Jaffrey not far from the Smiths. By 1910, the couple were living in Worcester, where Walter was a horse dealer. Perhaps not surprisingly, by 1920, Walter’s occupation had changed to “gasoline salesman”. The last record I’ve found of Etta is in the 1930 census, when she and Walter were living on McKinley Road near Green Hill in Worcester. In the 1940 census, Walter is still living in the McKinley Road house, but his marital status is “Widowed”. The only other member of the household is Mildred Dunn, age 39. Mildred was Grandfather Dunn’s sister, and Walter and Etta’s niece.

The home of Leonard and Lydia Smith as it appears today.
The home of Leonard and Lydia Smith as it appears today

The next connection takes us back to Jaffrey, and the house where Aunt Et grew up. It’s the house in the picture Mom had on her wall, with a pond in the foreground, and Mount Monadnock in the distance. This was the house of Etta’s parents, Leonard Smith, originally of Foster RI and Killingly CT, and Lydia (Cogswell) Smith, who was born in Rutland. Also living in the house when Etta was growing up was her maternal grandmother, Lucy (Seaver) Cogswell. Lucy was born in 1794, probably in either Worcester or Holden. Lucy and her husband Stephen had moved to Dublin NH in the 1850’s, and Leonard and Lydia moved to nearby Jaffrey shortly thereafter.

When Lucy was growing up in Holden, her paternal grandfather, Moses Seaver, lived nearby in Shrewsbury. Lucy was 15 years old when Moses died, so it’s more than likely that she was well acquainted with him. With Moses, we’ve reached an ancestor who was a veteran of the American Revolution- just two connections away from Mom!

Moses Seaver was born in Sudbury in 1740. His grandfather, Joseph Seaver, lived in Framingham until his death in 1754. Again, the close proximity and the fact that Moses was about 14 when Joseph died makes it pretty certain that they knew each other.

With Joseph Seaver, we’ve reached the 17th century- Joseph was born in Roxbury in 1672. Also living in Roxbury was his grandfather, Robert Seaver, who died in 1683, when Joseph was eleven. With Robert, we’re all the way back to the original settlement of Boston. Robert was born in England in 1608, and emigrated to Boston in 1634. From a history of the Seaver family published in 1872:

Robert Seaver embarked on the ship “Mary and John” out of London, Robert Sayres, master, on 24 March 1634. He took the oaths of supremacy and allegiance to pass to New England. The ship landed in Boston, and Robert Seaver was living in Roxbury MA by June 1634.

So our six degrees from Mom:

  1. Aunt Et
  2. Lucy Seaver
  3. Moses Seaver
  4. Joseph Seaver
  5. Robert Seaver

And that leaves room for one more connection- although it doesn’t appear that Robert Seaver was prominent in the local government, with only about four thousand inhabitants in Boston at the time, Robert would likely have been familiar with the Governor, John Winthrop, who in his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity”, said this:

For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.

The phrase “A City upon a hill” has been used and misused by politicians ever since!

Here’s another “six degrees” chain, based on our family history, but this time leading to a rather prominent living person:

This time we’ll start with Nana Dunn as connection number one. Katherine Jane Farrar was born in 1889 in East Providence. Her father was Daniel Farrar, an iron moulder originally from Leeds in England. Daniel was born in 1832. He had an older brother named Thomas, born a year earlier. Thomas was apparently a gifted child, and eventually entered the ministry of the Church of England. He was sent to Guiana in South America, where he attained the rank of archdeacon.

Thomas’s son Walter followed in his father’s footsteps, and was named Bishop of Antigua in 1905. His health failed soon after, though, and in 1909 he and his family returned to England. Walter then held a number of clerical appointments, including that of assistant Archbishop of York. The Archbishop of York is the second highest prelate in the Church of England. The Archbishop Walter worked for was Cosmo Gordon Lang, who, in 1928, was elevated to Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Community. Lang led the Church through a particularly tumultuous time, with the Great Depression, the abdication crisis, and finally the Second World War. He retired from Canterbury in 1942. His last official act was the confirmation of the Princess, and later Queen, Elizabeth.

So from Mom to the Queen:

  1. Nana Dunn (mother)
  2. Daniel Farrar (Nana’s father)
  3. Thomas Farrar (Daniel’s brother)
  4. Walter Farrar (Thomas’s son)
  5. Cosmo Gordon Lang (Walter’s boss when he was Archbishop of York)
  6. Queen Elizabeth II (Heir presumptive, confirmed by Archbishop Lang as his final official act before his retirement. Or, if you prefer, Winston Churchill, the Duke of Windsor, George V, etc., etc…)