Ruth Evans
Seamstress designer Writer Dancer researcher earthling  


Ancestor Gallery


Lawrence Watt-Evans site

  Although Ruth's claim to being an Earthling at times seems dubious, she was indeed born locally, in a Lowell hospital as it happens. She grew up the fifth of six children in a large, old Victorian home in nearby Bedford filled with books and cats. Most of her history can be found scattered elsewhere in this site. After spending many years living in a rambling, ancient house in North Reading, Massachusetts, she lives today with her adored second husband and the youngest of her three children, an adult son, in one of Lowell's converted mills.  



Back to Top


Once upon a time, Ruth had great plans for this page—but she has no idea anymore what they were so you'll have to settle for this.

75 Fun Facts That If Divulged In Quantity Make Me Look Like A Liar or a Loon (Or, at the Very Least, Someone Fond of Tall Tales)

1) Family legend says we had a Scottish ancestor on my mother's side called "Lang Janet." Because she had lost two brothers to whatever war was going on at the time, she insisted her younger brother let her fire a blunderbuss next to his ear until he could manage not to flinch at the sound. That way he could avoid being drafted by pretending he was deaf. Supposedly it worked and he survived, although he very well may have been deaf by that time. On the other hand, this tale was passed along by my mother's father, a man fond of inventing stories out of whole cloth.

2) The Goodwin branch of the family settled in Maine in the mid 1600's, and a portion of the land farmed by my Great-great-great-grandfather Goodwin still remains undeveloped as part of Goodwin estate land. As of 2000, the cellar hole of his house (or perhaps the barn) was still visible and various family cemetery plots dotted the woodsy acres.

3) Several branches of the Evans line have been in the United States since the early 1600s, most of them settling in Massachusetts or other Southern New England states. One branch, the Snedekers, arrived from the Netherlands in the 1630s and settled in New Amsterdam, at the southern end of what is now Manhattan.

4) A great-times-eight grandfather was captain of the so-called Phantom Ship of New Haven that was lost in 1646. The story of this ship appears in Rev. Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702.

5) My great-times-six grandmother was kidnapped by Indians and turned over to the French who held her in Canada for five years and forced her to be baptized as Catholic. She also had a bigamous marriage during her time in Canada and some reports have her leaving two children behind when she returned to her husband in Maine. Her story also appears in Rev. Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana.

6) My great-great-great-great uncle was a Lt. Col. in the Revolution who later rose to general. Numerous other ancestors died in various early conflicts in United States history and served in the fledgling government.

7) My great-great-great uncle was Governor of New Hampshire when the Civil War broke out—he authorized sending troops immediately rather than waiting for the approval of the state legislature (which was not in session at the time). Gov. Goodwin's house is now part of Strawberry Bank in Portsmouth, a historic site. The portrait of Gov. Goodwin hanging over the mantel at Strawberry Bank appears to be the same one that hung in my great-great grandfather's Pennsylvania home around 1900, although we have no idea the route it took from my family to the museum.

8) Another cousin was governor of Arizona at the same time.

9) My great-great grandfather (the brother of the N.H. governor) was a member of the Pennsylvania legislature and a founding father of Greenville, PA. The mansion he built there around 1840 remained in the family through five generations before finally being sold in 2008, and the family still holds records from his store and his railroad investments.

10) This same ancestor raised a daughter but never had a wife, meaning my great-grandmother was born out of wedlock. We have no documentation of the mother other than a name on Great-Grandma's death certificate and no idea who supplied the name since Great-Grandma's children—or at least the son I'm descended from—never knew the name of their maternal grandmother. My DNA results show a sliver of African blood so there may be a racial/racist component to the story given that it took place 20 years before the Civil War.

11) There is an unidentified woman's body in the family plot in Pennsylvania that was discovered during a 1932 burial and left where it was. Perhaps it is that of the mystery mother.

12) After this great-great grandfather died In PA, his brother in NH, the former governor, sent a letter requesting the return of the body from Pennsylvania to Maine for burial in the family plot—once the weather was cool enough to allow exhumation and shipment, that is.

13) Photos and journal entries belonging to the deceased's grandson, my grandfather, bemoan the transfer of the body from the Pennsylvania cemetery to the Maine family plot, the plot being an abandoned field by 1938 when Grandfather visited it. In 2000 it took us four hours to find this same Maine plot which is now hidden in dense woods.

14) Gold fever: One cousin was a '49er and a great-great-great uncle brought back a nugget of gold from India that was made into gold earrings that I still own. On the other side of the family, a great-great uncle struck gold during the Klondike gold rush in the 1890s and was apparently murdered for it: he wrote home that he'd made his pile and was never heard from again.

15) My great grandfather was a train engineer during the Civil War (but neglected to ever mention the war in the daily journal he kept—he did, however, include interesting period details about everything from what shows were popular to how to build a gas works).

16) Another great grandfather was a champion dog breeder and well-known show judge, his specialty being Pomeranians and Collies. He wrote articles for multiple publications, primarily about dogs, but also about yachting. He seems to have been a painter as well.

17) This same great grandfather patented a self-measuring and registering tap for commercial use to prevent tampering with liquor stocks by unauthorized persons in pubs and restaurants.

18) I am cousin to Admiral Dewey of "The Battle of Manilla" (Spanish-American War) fame (first cousin by marriage, 3 times removed).

19) A great-great uncle was Secretary of Education for Scotland.

20) My paternal grandfather was a student of Woodrow Wilson's at Princeton University, and received letters of recommendation from him.

21) This same grandfather also ran the local draft board during WWI. Additionally, I have photos of him standing IN the Panama Canal while it was still under construction.

22) And he kept a journal for his son, my father, written from the infant's POV. It begins: "I was born," and gives detailed insight into parenthood in the 1920s.

23) My paternal grandmother died during brain surgery to treat a sinus infection.

24) My maternal grandfather was in the Merchant Marine prior to WWI and traveled between England, New Zealand, Australia and Canada by ship transporting a variety of goods.

25) My maternal grandparents (who were British) were married dockside in Canada immediately following my grandmother's arrival from England. Her Merchant Marine fiancé had been stranded in Canada by the outbreak of WWI and she had left her home, her wedding gown and all her plans behind to join him using the only means available, an empty troop ship. Her intended met her on the dock with a clergyman but forgot to bring witnesses. Family legend has it that the ship's purser and a drunken homeless woman served as that purpose, but more recent research indicates it was most likely the purser who was drunk. The female witness was a social worker and temperance advocate who patrolled the docks for unaccompanied young ladies who might be led astray by unsavory characters; this witness went on to become Halifax's first female police officer.

26) These same grandparents were living in Halifax at the time of the munitions ship explosion that leveled part of the city and killed 2,000 people. Fortunately, they happened to be visiting Montreal at the time.

27) My maternal grandparents also barely survived the flu epidemic of 1918-19 that was blamed for 20 million deaths. A neighbor found them both ill in their apartment and helped nurse them back to health.

28) In 1942, my mother was invited to visit a young man in Boston to attend the Boston College/Holy Cross football game as well as the victory celebration that was to follow at a local nightclub, The Coconut Grove. Her parents objected so she didn't go, and her would-be host's team lost anyway. Had she attended the party, I might not exist; that was the night that 491 people died in the infamous Coconut Grove fire.

29) In going through journals and other memorabilia, I discovered that my father had had a play date with Jack Langstaff when both boys were five—their fathers sang in the same Brooklyn chorus. Fifty years later my sister performed in The Cambridge Christmas Revels that Jack eventually founded, but I very much doubt anyone ever made the connection at the time (Jack, my father, and that sister are all long gone so there's no one to ask).

30) When my father was 7, he and his father composed a map of Peter Rabbit's neighborhood based on the stories by Thorton Burgess. Taking it a step further, his father sent the map to Burgess to see if it was accurate and, much to their delight, Burgess wrote back and included his own hand-drawn map of how he pictured Peter's neighborhood. They continued to correspond for a time and it turned out Burgess's illustrator lived a few doors down from my father and grandfather's apartment in Brooklyn.

31) My father graduated second in his class at Princeton, got his doctorate from Harvard, and did sabbatical work at Yale. He also taught at Tufts for 30 years. The guy who graduated first in Dad's class had a son who happened to attend Princeton with my brother.

32) My father trained as a truck driver during WWII but ended up working on the Manhattan Project (the atomic bomb) refining uranium through gaseous diffusion at Columbia University.

33) My mother trained as a cryptographer but ended up as a secretary on the Manhattan project after she married my father. In between she served as a legal secretary. Much of her secretarial work on the Project was for Willard Libby who went on to head the Atomic Energy Commission and is credited with developing radio carbon dating.

34) My parents met as pen-pals who started corresponding at the suggestion of my mother's ex-boyfriend, a school chum of my father's, when Dad was in basic training. In the 16 months between the first letter and their marriage they wrote close to 300 letters, all of which still exist.

35) Between my generation and the preceding one, 6 out of 8 members finished 12 years of primary schooling in 11 years and three graduated Bryn Mawr College with honors at age 20. There are also a few perfect SAT scores among my sibs and most of us qualify for MENSA status.

36) If it were possible to put my parents, their six children, and their children's families together in one room there would be at least one person who could manage a conversation in each of the following languages: Spanish, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Italian, German, Latin, Russian, Hungarian, Hebrew, and American Sign Language.

37) The west entrance to the church on Bedford common in Massachusetts is named after my mother; she was church secretary there for a quarter century.

38) My oldest sister worked with x-rays produced by the particle accelerator at Cornell University for decades.

39) This sister also breeds and shows Siberian Huskies.

40) This sister's husband was one of the 190,000 Hungarians who escaped to the West when Russian troops crushed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. He was 10 years old when his family walked miles through the snow to arrive in Austria on New Year's Day, 1957.

41) My next sister founded the first recognized women's troupe publicly performing a type of English men's ritual dancing known as Morris dancing in the original, masculine style. This troupe toured England, appeared on TV, and was invited on board for a personal tour of a Tall Ship that happened to also be an all-women venture. (Related memorabilia here.)

42) This same sister corresponded with Tim Rice ("Jesus Christ Superstar" lyricist, "The Lion King" etc) and was invited to dinner by him.

43) My brother is a successful author with dozens of novels to his credit and has won a Hugo.

44) This brother is also a past president of The Horror Writers Association which boasted such members as Stephen King at the time.

45) He's also been a dinner guest at Leonard Nimoy's house and met Iassac Asimov.

46) Until her retirement, this brother's wife MADE money (she worked for the US Treasury) and holds a patent in her own name.

47) My younger sister is a DVM, PhD, and a CLAM (College of Laboratory Animal Medicine certified). She tells people they can remember the string of letters after her name by singing them to the Mickey Mouse Song: D-V-M, P-H-D, A-C-L-A-M. One of her noteworthy professional tasks has been to load rats on the Space Shuttle (Mission STS-58).

48) This sister has also played viola under Arthur Fiedler (a famous Boston conductor) and worked on a show with John Lithgow's father (John Lithgow is an actor: Third Rock from the Sun, and lots of other stuff).

49) This same sister was also on Jeopardy.

50) I served as a costume apprentice at an equity theatre and worked crew for Marlene Dietrich, Kitty Carlisle, Patty Duke, June Havoc, John Astin, and Nancy Dussault, among others. Paul Sorvino ("Law and Order," etc) and John Reardon (Metropolitan opera star and occasional Mister Rogers guest) took me out to dinner (along with the rest of the cast and crew).

51) I am a professional bridal seamstress and have made somewhere around two thousand gowns (I have lots of weird stories about brides). One over-enthusiastic bride has a gown I created on display in a custom-made glass case in her home, or she did last I knew.

52) The owner of the bridal shop I sewed for for 16 years was a former parole officer. This meant she was experienced at handling tough customers. She contended that as long as none of the brides pulled a knife on her she was fine.

53) There is a historical reproduction I made of an 1830's dress on display at the Boot Mill Museum in Lowell, MA. I have also made a number of period costumes for vintage dancers.

54) In my former job as a sample tech in the New Balance proto shop, I have made shoes for the Red Sox mascots, Wally the Green Monster and his sister, Tessie, as well as various well-known sports figures.

55) I am a published author as are three out of five of my siblings.

56) I spent a decade working in a warehouse with a woman who fled Poland when the communists were closing in on her husband's underground newspaper.

57) I am a professional belly dancer (pretty much retired). My most recent two-legged gig was at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2004. My most recent four-legged gig was as a dancing centaur at a Magical Creatures Festival in 2019.

58) I performed on stage with an American folk dance group at the National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap Farm outside DC when I was 16.

59) I'm versed in English country dance, English ritual dance (Morris & Sword), American contras and squares, Swing, Historic ballroom, Modern ballroom, and Middle-Eastern dancing. I am a (former) competitive ballroom dancer who has never competed at any level lower than that of Amateur Championship.

60) I not only live in Lowell but, it turns out, am 5th cousin 4 times removed to the person after whom the city is named. Apparently our lineage can also be traced back to Charlemagne (but then so can millions of other people's).

61) My husband and I are the only people (we know of) that have made a habit of performing ballroom choreographies that show both the original style of a dance and the modern style it became.

62) Between hubby and I, we have gone dancing in fifteen states (that we can think of)—and we don't even travel all that much!

63) My husband has been researching historic dance for over forty years and has performed everywhere from banks to museums to shopping malls.

64) My husband's last name has one of the oldest English coat-of-arms in existence.

65) On the other hand, it's not really his family crest because his family has only had their current last name since about 120 years ago—which is when it was appropriated by Swedish ancestors migrating through England who wanted a more English-sounding surname.

66) My grandfather-in-law was killed in a blast furnace accident at Bethlehem Steel.

67) My previous, longtime home was about 230 years old.

68) The oldest things in my home now are a pair of oak candlesticks carved from a fallen beam from the tower of St. John's Church in Chester, built around 1200. The candlesticks were made in 1885, most likely by my great-great grandfather, a joiner living in the area who may have had access to lumber salvaged from the tower collapse. Family legend has them as a "thank you" gift from the church or city for help with fund-raising efforts to rebuild the damaged church, but I've found nothing to support that story.

69) As an infant, I lived in a house that was a converted nightclub and was said to have originally been a speakeasy. The house I lived in for most of my adult life was rumored to have been a brothel around 1900, but it appears the real reason for its sinful reputation was that it was the regular meeting site of a group of suffragettes.

70) My siblings and I all slept in a Skinner baby box as infants (Skinner was a very well-known behavioral psychologist with some unorthodox ideas about raising children). Our baby box is now the property of the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA.

71) Some of my children's ancestors were residents of Summer Hill, New Brunswick. The town of Summer Hill disappeared when it was made part of the Gagetown Army Base in the 1950's and it's occupants forced out. Many of my children's forebears remain buried there.

72) My children have one cousin who was a Canadian ambassador and another who is a well-known actor/comedian.

73) My nephew married a member of one of the nine founding families of the Chinese city of Jiande in a ceremony that involved drummers, dancers, a matchmaker, and ceremonial boats. It also included the families of the couple dancing about with giant prawn puppets held over their heads.

74) I have a grand-daughter who is the only child born in Topsfield, MA in a very, very long time. She arrived faster than expected and was delivered at home by Daddy rather than at the local hospital a few towns away.

75) And—hardest to believe of all—my husband, a quality engineer who was a bachelor into his late forties, married a kluge queen with three teenagers and after over twenty-three years seems to still be happy about it!

Main Site (Twirling Jennies) Comments? Questions? Copyright 2011-2022 by Ruth Evans