Hi, I’m Dan Hamilton.
I grew up feeling rather a mutt.
I never knew my mother, and family history was not a subject of interest to my father. I knew only the normal three generations of my father’s family and none of my mother’s.
That has all changed now, after genealogy became a passion, when I took early retirement in 2001. I have been able to fill in the blanks for hundreds of years on both sides, meet both new immediate family and distant cousins in the process, and most recently, move to the land of my paternal forefathers by buying an old farmhouse in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.
I had previously lived in New York City, and then upon retirement, moved to Dutchess County, about two hours north. As I learned about my Hamilton ancestors, I began visiting the associated towns and after returning repeatedly to the Brookfields area, realized the deep sense of belonging that I felt when I was there. It was what we call an impulse buy.
I had, over the years and multiple visits become acquainted with some of the local historic groups and people, all of whom are generous and passionate about sharing their knowledge. As I visited the libraries, explored the towns, studied the maps, read the land deeds, delved into the published and unpublished genealogies, and most importantly, benefited from the shared research, support, and guidance of the online John Hamilton of Charlestown/Concord groups, I found I was collecting and connecting to an enormous amount of information. That wonderful process is ongoing and wonderfully absorbing and satisfying. That’s a nice way of saying it can take over your life, as you all know.
I have had wonderful breakthroughs, tearing down what seemed to be substantial brick walls in my own personal research and sometimes in a distant cousin’s line. One of the more dramatic stories was the discovery that my maternal grandfather had forged documents and changed his name, left the country, and raised three other substantial families. I was suddenly overwhelmed with new living and loving aunts and uncles, and finally a maternal tree branch extendible into the past. Mutt, be gone!
I have been able to prove a previously unknown descent from an early Joseph Hamilton daughter, Millicent b.1720, whose second marriage and unreported children led to Army Chief of Staff Leonard Wood, the namesake of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and many others. The answer lay in previously unrecognized marriage records, wills, land deeds, revolutionary war pension records, and a hundred years of mistaken identity confusing two men of the same name born in the same year. That felt really good.
I have traced my Hamilton line back from my engineer father, through successful and unsuccessful business men, paper companies, timber and iron barons, farmers and grist mill operators, soldiers, country doctors, farmers, maltsters, and a Scottish Prisoner of War. What Mutt?
I can now trace direct lines to New England historical figures, Mayflower passengers, Jamestown residents, Shakespeare and the kings of England, Scotland, Ireland and beyond!! Cue the music.
Not to mention a few actors now and then.
Two years ago, I drove around the United States coast to coast and border to border, taking two months to visit the living and the dead, tracing the migration of both sides of my own family and meeting the new faces and old. I visited towns, saw homes, explored cemeteries, and took photographs. It was wonderful, enlightening, and humbling.
My Hamilton research has lead not only to the constant collaboration with the online community, but my inheriting from Teresa the maintenance and research of the John Hamilton of Concord Descendant Tree on Ancestry.com. I’m proud to report that the constantly growing tree is now showing over 12,000 descendants and spouses. If you have information you would like to share on the tree, we would be pleased and proud to do so. The growth of the related Hamilton DNA research is helping us all fit the pieces of the puzzles together. I encourage anyone who has not done so to explore DNA testing and see if it would help your own research.
My focus on the Brookfields area has led to creating a research and resource website entitled appropriately enough: www.brookfieldsresearch.com
I work daily with the historic leaders, libraries, commissions and societies, and the people who live here in the old and new Brookfields. We are constantly adding new material, links, and media. I invite you to explore. My contact information is available there and, if I can, I’d be glad to help you in your research.
As are many of us Hamilton researchers, I am currently focusing on the first two generations, the missing maiden names of wives, and the SPOW experience and records. And I continue to explore the Brookfields. This Spring, if the snow ever disappears, I’ll walk the land and tour a house of a Hamilton farm from the late 1700’s. I’ve included some photographs on this page, all of past Hamilton lands.
I feel particularly fortunate to belong to this family, to feel as a thread in the fabric, and to begin to see the pattern emerge. It’s a wonderful sense of belonging. And purpose. And made even more so by the daily ability to travel through the early Hamilton lands; many of them still wild; An Audubon Preserve, another a Nature Conservancy. Perhaps to walk a field once farmed, sit on a stone wall, imagine the household there, and yes, the sounds of children. It’s a marvelous gift to pass on to the future.
You can go home again.