My blog has been changed to make it more appealing for those who have New England ancestors and want to see the area through photos. Things I’ll include are typical white New England churches, libraries showing their genealogical collection, historical societies, cemeteries, war memorials, in general, anything to do with history.

For four years I’ve blogged mostly about my personal genealogy in New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. I still will, can’t forget my own roots.

Please check out the labels on the right side for articles. The header tabs at the top are a work in progress.

Friday, November 19, 2010

He Changed His Name To Hide!

The longer you do your genealogy research, the more you realize that not all ancestors told the truth. We want them truthful in order for us to follow their past. But what if they changed their name? What if they came from another country? What if the well-known Canadian beer, Molson, could have been named after your ancestor? A lot of what if's. All these are facts, and solved, over time, because the middle name of my ancestor was actually his surname, and an author wrote a book about John Molson. Once in a while we get lucky.

James Pell Jr., was one of the original 35 Associates who received land in 1796 which formed the first township in Lower Canada. I'm fortunate to have a lot of information on him, since, he and several generations of Pells lived in that area. But, it wasn't until a cousin and I merged our information that things got interesting. I hadn't considered looking further back into England to trace the line, I stop once they set foot in North America. He, on the other had, has the surname of Pell, so he was more curious. During a seven year span, we researched, and merged, wondered and often, well no, we didn't often think about giving up. Where was James Pell from? There was no trace of him or his parents in England.

In 2007, cousin Duane Pell informed me of a rather new book, Molson, The Birth of a Business Empire by Douglas Hunter. He couldn't put it down, as it was not only interesting, but filled with Pell and Gibbins information. We soon found out there was name change. The last name of Pell was taken when James Gibbins Sr., several of his sons, including the above James Pell, and a very young John Molson, founder of the Molson Brewing Company of Canada, arrived in Canada sometime during the 1780s.  During this migration, many letters were written between these sailors and their families back in England. Fortunately, letters and diaries were saved and are now in the Molson Brewery Archives. We soon were shaking our heads in disbelief, but were happy. The line went back a further generation, but now there was a new surname, no longer Pell but Gibbins. My cousin tried to get used to the fact that he really was a Gibbins!

John Molson was often called home to help with estate matters. During those trips, my James Pell Sr. (formerly James Gibbins) was left in charge of the new brewery. While in England, John stayed at James Gibbins's daughter's house, she being a possible bride. Per the above book, "And by bequeathing the brewery to Gibbins 'and his Heirs and Assigns forever' in the March 1785 will, Molson made Ann Gibbins Elsdales (a widow) and the (her) children among the ultimate beneficiaries of his estate." 

Apparently, there was a break, a few years later, in the friendship between John Molson and James Gibbons / Pell.  Probably due to either money or  with mismanagement of the brewery. James Sr. returned to England several times for visits, then ultimately staying there, using the name of James Gibbins, and his son, James Gibbins Pell Jr. remained in Missisquoi County, Quebec, and kept the name of Pell.

James Gibbins Pell Jr., my 4th great grandfather was born about October 12, 1759 in Spalding, So. Lincolnshire, England, and died January 28, 1846 in St. Armand East, now called Frelighsburg, Missisquoi Co., Quebec, Canada. His first wife's name is unknown, with whom he had two children, but his 2nd wife, Margaret Brisbin and James Pell are buried in Frelighsburg as shown by their graves recently posted.

Towards the end of the Molson book, there are some interesting quotes, one in particular caught my eye. In a letter to Molson, written by a future brother-in-law, "Your guardian Companion Gibbins is among us and doing God only knows what. Gibbins is a very free spoken plausible genius. I rather more than suspect him to be an hypocrite and that he is not over and above addicted to the crime of veracity." There is also a statement that his own daughter banished James Gibbins from her house.
Yes, there's one in every family.

My cousin and I prepared a paper, and had it bound, then sent it to the Missisquoi Historical Archives in Stanbridge East, Quebec. The family was one of the earliest settlers of that area, and it was important to let future researchers of the Pell line know there isn't one. They need to follow the Gibbins line in England instead. Six months after we submitted our documentation, I went to Salt Lake City and discovered a marriage record of James Gibbins's parents. William Gibbons married Sarah Pell on 30 May 1722 at Algarkirk, Lincoln, England.  I now know where the name Pell came from.

This post was written for the Carnival of Genealogy (COG), a special blog a month, which is open to all bloggers. This month's theme is, "There's one in every family!" and this is my first Carnival entry.  Jasia of  the Creative Gene blog has been hosting the Carnival of Genealogy, and in December she is celebrating her 100th Carnival (that is 100 months). Please join me in congratulating Jasia and check out her blog at Creative Gene.

Sources used:

Academic dictionaries and encyclopedias (Note: Information about James Gibbins.)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (Note: Information about James Pell.)

Molson: The Birth of a Business Empire by Douglas Hunter, Canada: Penguin Books, 2001. (He gave me permission to use his book, with many quotes, for the paper several years ago.)