Researching the family legends

There are a few family legends that I heard many years ago that are still guiding my research inquiries. No, we don't have a legend of a connection to Billy The Kid, but there are a couple other famous people that are supposed to be connected to the lines I'm researching. I'll start with two legends on my own lines for this post and save other legends for later.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The family legend that has had the most influence on my research direction so far is that my Holmes line connects to the Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes (OWH). I found this legend so fascinating from the day that I heard it, I've been trying to prove a connection to OWH's line.

The oldest Holmes that I have been able to prove in my line is Levi C. Holmes, born in 1814, in Hightstown, Mercer County, New Jersey. He married Mary N. Van Marter (born 1813), and together they had 5 children, including Charles H. Holmes (born 1838), William Ward Holmes (b. 1839, Trenton, NJ; m. Anna M. Wharton, 19 Sep 1861, Trenton, NJ; d. 1921), Harrison Holmes (born 1841), Clark Brownwell Holmes (my 2nd great grandfather; b. 6 Oct 1843; m. Phoebe Pullen, 1868), and Mary Holmes (born 1846). Levi's family appears in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 US census enumerations in East Windsor (for 1850) and Hamilton, Mercer County, New Jersey.

The Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, was born on 8 Mar 1841 in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, also named Oliver Wendell Holmes, was born on 29 Aug 1809, and died on 7 Oct 1894 in Boston. The elder OWH's parents were the Reverend Abiel Holmes (born 24 Dec 1763) and Sarah Wendell (married 26 Mar 1801). There are a number of published genealogies that take these lines back to the mid-16th century. At one time I had this line entered into a database, but I've misplaced my backup of this database and must go back to the notes and photocopies I made of the original references. Thankfully, I made photocopies of the title pages of the books I was referencing so I should be able to find the books again somewhere.

At this point I'm very certain that my Holmes line does not directly descend from either OWH, but from what I've researched so far, a connection a little further back somewhere above Abiel might be possible.

Two Pullens meet on a boat...
The second legend that intrigued me was the story of Peter and Eliza Pullen. The family legend is that Peter and Eliza already shared a surname when they met and started a relationship while on the ship that took them from Britain to America during the time of the Great Potato Famine.

The facts as far as I've been able to find are that Peter Pullen was born in 1817 somewhere in the British Isles, and died sometime after 1907, with a will prepared in 1892 in Mercer County, New Jersey. Eliza Pullen was born to James Pullen in 1820, also somewhere in the British Isles, and died in 1897 (some records indicate that Peter was a widower, which would mean Eliza died at least before 1907) in Mercer County, NJ. Together they had three children: Phoebe Pullen (married Clark Brownwell Holmes in 1868, as mentioned above), Anna M. Pullen (b. East Windsor Twp, Mercer County, NJ; m. Stephen B. Bergen in Dec 1863), and Eliza Pullen (born Oct 1863 in Washington Twp, Mercer County, NJ).

There are a few grains of truth that seem to bolster this family legend more than the Holmes legend above. I've found that the elder Eliza's father was named James Pullen, and that both Peter and Eliza were born somewhere in the British Isles. According to one British surname popularity tool, Pullen is the 937th most popular surname in Britain with 10,776 people still living in the UK that share this surname; the tool also indicates that most of the Pullens are currently located in Highland County, Scotland, where Pullen is the 76th most popular surname. Wikipedia mentions that the Irish Potato Famine led to mass migrations away from Ireland in the late 1840s, which would fit the facts for the birth dates and locations that I've been able to find so far. I have read that there was some intermingling of family lines between Ireland and Scotland, but I need to read more on this before I make a more definite connection between these two data points. I haven't gone very far yet to prove this legend, but so far, it's looking very probable.

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