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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

History and Genealogy: There Are Always Two Brothers
The Cushing Cousins of Western New York

by Joanne Polizzi Mansfield 
Copyright @ 2018. All rights reserved by the author.

There are always two brothers. I always encounter two when researching genealogy and family histories. It can be exciting or frustrating. It can lead to greater discoveries or to not quite breaking down that brick wall of finding the perfect ancestors.

There are always two brothers. You start off knowing there is a famous or notorious ancestor in this family tree and of course you think he or she must be connected to the line you are researching!

Carefully, you peel away the layers, search records, find sources and uncover the family. Of course and inevitably, the connection to the famous/notorious line you are looking for is not what you find. You are researching his brother. So the relationship is established, but not as a direct ancestor/descendant. They are always cousins and never the acclaimed relative.

There are always two brothers. In the case of my husband’s family, there is Nathan Hale, Benedict Arnold’s first wife, Yale University founders, people that towns and cities are named for. All these people considered famous/notorious are descended from the BROTHER of my husband’s ancestor. We are cousins.

Then there is the Cushing Family. In my role as genealogy researcher for our County Historical Society, I am asked to research the families or relationships in our collections. This project included Civil War era letters owned by a descendant of John Cushing Page.

My fellow trustee, Dr. David Brown, is our Civil War historian. In transcribing letters from that era, he is always seeking the identity of the writer, recipient, and people mentioned in context. A recent collection of letters had so many characters weaving throughout, he wondered about their relationships. Who are all these people? Are they related to the owner of the letters, the author or each other, or the locations and historic events of the era? He asked me to try to find answers.

There are always two brothers. And in this case, sisters- who are descended from OUR brother. (Meaning not the famous one.)

The central letters’ author is John Cushing Page, from Sherman, New York. In 1863, he is a member of the 112th NY Infantry, Co E, writing to and from Kate, his wife. He also writes to cousins Alcander Morse of Illinois 37th Infantry, Co I, and Sherman Williams of NY 49th Infantry, Co G. The mothers of John, Alcander and of Sherman are sisters, daughters of John and Lucy Sherman Cushing. The men of the letters are first cousins.

Other letter writers include Charles Carroll Lewis of the 112th Infantry, Co F, and his brother Fernando, a member of NY 21st Infantry, Co D, and Theodore Skinner, NY 112th, Co E. All were found to be related through family or marriage.

With the help of local records and, we sorted the mothers, the sons, wives, cousins, and extras. And then we found descendants of the three cousins across the United States - descendants who have family trees and Civil War interests and history, as well as relatives and cousins of their own in Western New York. This was a huge step in breathing life into the characters in our letters. We have a story!

And then there is the other Cushing Family. There are always two brothers. Western New York knows the Cushing name. In 2014 Alonzo H. Cushing, born in Wisconsin in 1841 and raised in Fredonia, New York, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for battlefield bravery at Gettysburg. He was the son of Milton Buckingham and Mary Barker Cushing. The villages of Fredonia, home of Alonzo, and Sherman, the home of our Cushings, are in the same county, and not too distant from each other. Is it possible these families may somehow be related?

Our research confirmed a relationship! Alonzo H Cushing, (the famous one), and John Cushing Page, (our letter writer), Alcander and Sherman), are fifth cousins. They are all descended from Daniel and Lydia Clark Gilman Cushing.

Of course, Daniel had two sons, Jeremiah and Theophilus. Of course, Alonzo is the son of Jeremiah and Hannah Loring Cushing. John is the son of Theophilus and Mary Jacob Thaxter Cushing. Of course, two brothers!

All of the cousins of the letters are descended from our brother Theophilus Cushing. We do have a story, and we find the family we are researching is amazing and important. It is a story of bravery and heartbreak, of the sons and families that endured the hardships of war and separation.

The story is told, in part, through the correspondence and relationships of cousins. They write of missing family, daily activities, war maneuvers, and more family. Alonzo, descendant of Jeremiah, and cousin to our letter writers, shared the same hardships, with a sad ending, dying at Gettysburg. I wonder if the families shared news, letters of grief and sent condolences. As families do.

They are cousins from the same family, through all the generations. Their story is meaningful and heartfelt. The agonies of war do not discriminate between the brothers, famous or not.

There are always two brothers. It always means family.

About the author: Joanne Polizzi Mansfield is a trustee and genealogy researcher for the Chautauqua County Historical Society. She is a retired educator addicted to genealogy puzzles.

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