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  • Patty Vitale

Cousin Emily Dickinson and My Dickinson Ancestors

My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Dorothea Brooks Dickinson. When I started researching that branch of the family tree, I eventually discovered that my immigrant ancestors in the Dickinson line were Nathaniel Dickinson and his wife, Anna (Gull) Dickinson. Nathaniel and Anna had 12 children, 7 of whom were born in Billingborough, England, and 5 of whom were born in the U.S.


Nathaniel, my 9th-great-grandfather, was born in 1600 and immigrated to the U.S. between 1636 and 1638. With so many children, 13 generations later there are now tons of Dickinson descendants and even an association – the Dickinson Family Association (www.dickinsonfamilyassociation.org) – that has a family reunion each year.


I joined the Dickinson Family Association once I confirmed the lineage, and quickly learned that poet Emily Dickinson was also a descendant of Nathaniel Dickinson, but until now I hadn’t taken the time to figure out her lineage and add her to my tree. I now know that Emily Dickinson is my 6th cousin, 4x removed. Nathaniel was her 5th-great-grandfather. While I am descended from Nehemiah Dickinson, the 10th child of Nathaniel & Anna, Emily Dickinson is descended from Samuel Dickinson, their 8th child.


Emily Dickinson, my 6th cousin, 4x removed

I have also found two more Revolutionary War patriots in my direct Dickinson line of descendancy. Nehemiah’s son Ebenezer (my 7th-great-grandfather) served in the Committees on Correspondence, while Ebenezer’s son Reuben (my 6th-great-grandfather) served as a Captain in the Continental Army. Here’s a description of the role of the Committees on Correspondence from the website of the History Channel (http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/committees-of-correspondence):


"Committees of Correspondence were the American colonies’ first institution for maintaining communication with one another. They were organized in the decade before the Revolution, when the deteriorating relationship with Great Britain made it increasingly important for the colonies to share ideas and information. In 1764, Boston formed the earliest Committee of Correspondence, writing to other colonies to encourage united opposition to Britain’s recent stiffening of customs enforcement and prohibition of American paper money. The following year New York formed a similar committee to keep the other colonies notified of its actions in resisting the Stamp Act. This correspondence led to the holding of the Stamp Act Congress in New York City. Nine of the colonies sent representatives, but no permanent intercolonial structure was established. In 1772, a new Boston Committee of Correspondence was organized, this time to communicate with all the towns in the province, as well as with “the World,” about the recent announcement that Massachusetts’s governor and judges would hereafter be paid by–and hence accountable to–the Crown rather than the colonial legislature. More than half of the province’s 260 towns formed committees and replied to Boston’s communications."


I haven’t been to a reunion of the Dickinson Family Association yet, but the next one is in late June and this may be the year that I get there.


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Germantown, Maryland

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