Find & Preserve Your Family’s Stories

I grew up hearing the old family stories.

There was no television in New Hampshire in those days, but my grandfather remembered the family stories and passed them down.

collage showing picture of an Indian attack and the title page of Elizabeth Hanson's account of being captured by Indians in 1724

Credit: Wikipedia & Internet Archive

As kids there was one particular story we always wanted to hear every night: the story of when Indians attacked the family cabin in 1724. This story has been passed down in the family for almost 290 years!

I wondered if there was a contemporary account of this in the old newspapers of the day. After a steady search, I found nothing about the attack on my ancestors’ cabin published in 18th century newspapers.

But—I did find this, in an 1825 newspaper.

ad for Elizabeth Hanson's book about being captured by the Indians in 1724, New Hampshire Republican newspaper advertisement 25 January 1825

New Hampshire Republican (Dover, New Hampshire), 25 January 1825, page 10

One hundred years after the attack occurred, an announcement about my ancestor Elizabeth Hanson’s story was published in the newspaper.

She had written about her ordeal, and eventually her personal account was finally published.

title page for Elizabeth Hanson's book about being captured by Indians in 1724

Credit: Internet Archive

I already knew about the story—but now I had a near-contemporary account and it was the same story that my grandfather told us, almost word for word. What a wonderful keepsake to have and pass down to keep her story alive!

Search the old newspapers and other online genealogy resources and get your family’s stories.

Find what has been written about them for the past 300 years.

Don’t let your family’s history be lost.

The Disappearance—and Mysterious Reappearance—of Matthew Brayton

Here’s a 19th century mystery concerning a certain Matthew Brayton, who disappeared as a small boy, was held an Indian captive for 34 years, then one day reappeared.

But, was it really him?

An Indian Captive Reclaimed after Thirty-five Years’ Absence, Evening Post newspaper article 3 December 1859

Evening Post (New York City, New York), 3 December 1859, page 1

This is a gripping story about a young boy being kidnapped and then returning home as an adult. You will want to read all of An Indian Captive Reclaimed after Thirty-five Years’ Absence – Incidents of his Life in the Evening Post (New York City, New York), 3 December 1859, page 1.

On 20 September 1825 Matthew Brayton set off from home to gather the family’s cows. He was about eight years old—and wouldn’t be heard from again for 34 years. Kidnapped by the Indians, he was one of thousands of Indian captives in America from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Imagine his family’s joy when he finally turned up again!

A great, heartwarming story of a missing boy finally returned home, except—it apparently isn’t true.

Digging deeper into genealogy records we find Matthew Brayton’s obituary and even his photograph—and the true story comes to light.

Mathew Brayton obituary, Salem Register newspaper article 23 February 1863

Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts), 23 February 1863, page 2

Matthew Brayton’s old obituary, printed in the Salem Register (Salem, Massachusetts), 23 February 1863, page 2, gives us the rest of the story.

After returning from his long Indian captivity, Matthew Brayton lived with his supposed father, Elijah Brayton, for the next nine months. Then in June 1860 he told his “father” that he really wasn’t Matthew Brayton at all. Was this a 19th century scam? Perhaps—but Matthew Brayton didn’t give any further details of why he had lied about who he was.

Perhaps he simply didn’t want to “manage the farm that Mr. Brayton had promised to give him.” After telling the Braytons the truth, Matthew left their farm and joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry as “Matthew Brayton.” He died a few years later in 1863 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Here is a photograph of him in uniform.

photo of Mathew Brayton in Civil War uniform

Credit: Find-A-Grave

Genealogy Search Tip: Just because something is in print doesn’t make it true.

Don’t stop at the first story you find about your ancestor. Keep digging and make sure you uncover all of the facts.

Find the stories of your family’s history. Document them, preserve them and pass them down.