Linking the linguistic Lounsburys

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In a post last February I wrote about Yale professor of language and literature Thomas R. Lounsbury (1838-1915), whose 1908 book The Standard of Usage in English bucked the priggish prescriptivism of the era. More recently, Arnold Zwicky hailed his English Spelling and Spelling Reform as "a bracing, sharp-tongued book" full of "elegant rants." Lounsbury also played a major role in the history of language study at Yale, along with his more famous colleague William Dwight Whitney. In my February post I wrote that Thomas Lounsbury was not (as far as I knew) related to the anthropological linguist Floyd Lounsbury (1914-1998), an expert on North American and Mesoamerican indigenous languages who taught at Yale several decades later. It turns out the two language-loving Lounsburys were indeed related, but rather distantly: they were third cousins thrice removed.

To check on the Lounsbury linkage, I first contacted Hal Conklin, Floyd Lounsbury’s longtime colleague in the Yale Department of Anthropology. (I had the pleasure of working as Hal’s research assistant when I was an undergrad at Yale.) Hal informed me that Floyd, who hailed from Wisconsin, had looked into the genealogical connection with Thomas Lounsbury when he was working on Iroquoian languages spoken not far from Thomas’s birthplace in upstate New York. Given Floyd’s intense interest in kinship systems, it’s only natural that he’d want to track down his kinship with his Yale namesake. I also got in touch with Floyd’s daughter, documentary filmmaker and novelist Ruth Ozeki, who confirmed that her father had investigated his distant relation with Thomas Lounsbury, though the genealogical records he compiled aren’t readily locatable in the family files.

An absence of print records is not much of a hindrance in this age of electronic research, however. I was able to piece together the Lounsbury genealogy on my own from various online sources, and then Bill McDonald, editor of the genealogical newsletter The Lounsbury Tree, was kind enough to corroborate my findings. Here’s the full scoop.

The connection between the two Lounsburys goes all the way back to Henry Lounsbury (1684-1758), son of Richard, the first Lounsbury to immigrate from England to America. Henry lived in Stamford, Connecticut, which would be the home of many Lounsburys. One son of Henry, Epenetus, had a son James, who settled in Newtown, New York (now Elmira). James had a son named Thomas, who became a Presbyterian pastor in Ovid, New York, a bit north of Elmira near Seneca Lake. One of the minister’s sons was Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury, born in Ovid in 1838.

Floyd’s branch of the family tree descends from another son of Henry, Nathan Lounsbury. Two of Nathan’s great-grandsons, Phineas and George, were governors of Connecticut in the late 19th century. Another great-grandson, Ira Davis Lounsbury, moved out west to Wisconsin. Ira Davis was the great-grandfather of Floyd Glenn Lounsbury, born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 1914. So, since Ira Davis Lounsbury was a third cousin of Thomas R. Lounsbury (their great-grandfathers were brothers), that makes Floyd and Thomas third cousins three times removed.

The complete family tree, as far as I’ve been able to establish it, follows below.

			1 Henry Lounsbury 
			   b: 15 Aug 1684 in Rye, NY  
			   d: 08 Oct 1758 in Stamford, CT
			+ Mercy Scofield  
			   b: 30 Oct 1690 in Stamford, CT 
			   d: Aft. 08 Oct 1749 
			   m: 17 Dec 1709 in Stamford, CT
			  2 Epenetus Lounsbury 
			     b: 14 Feb 1716/17 in Stamford, CT
			  + Elizabeth Finch 
			     m: 25 Jan 1749/50 in Stamford, CT
			    3 James Lounsbury 
			      b: 24 Apr 1763 in Westchester, NY
			      d: 1814 in Elmira, NY
			    + Rebecca Scofield
			       d: in Tioga, NY
			      4 Thomas Lounsbury
			         b: 04 Oct 1789 in Florida, NY 
			         d: 21 Nov 1867 in Ovid, NY
			      + Mary Janette Woodward 
			         b: 01 Jul 1798 
			         d: 04 May 1872 in Ovid, NY  
			         m: 1826 in Ovid, NY
			        5 Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury 
			           b: 01 Jan 1838 in Ovid, NY 
			           d: 09 Apr 1915 in New Haven, CT
			  2 Nathan Lounsbury 
			     b: Abt. 1723 in Stamford, CT 
			     d: 26 Apr 1793 in Stamford, CT
			  + Elizabeth Seeley 
			     b: 25 Sep 1734 in Stamford, CT 
			     m: 22 Mar 1759 in New Canaan, CT
			    3 Nathan Lounsbury 
			       b: 05 Jan 1760 in Stamford, CT 
			       d: in Rensselaerville, Albany, NY
			    + Patience Davis 
			       b: 24 May 1761 in Swansea, MA 
			       m: 08 Jul 1779 in Rehoboth, MA
			      4 Daniel Lounsbury 
			         b: 01 May 1787 
			         d: 22 May 1855 in South Berne, NY
			      + Catherine Lawson 
			         b: 15 Aug 1787 
			         d: 03 Jul 1863 in South Berne, NY
			        5 Ira Davis Lounsbury 
			           b: 08 Nov 1810 in Broome, NY
			           d: 1874 in Pipersville, WI 
			        + Betsey Piper 
			           m: 05 Apr 1846 in Pipersville, WI
			          6 John Lounsbury 
			             b: 02 Aug 1858 in Pipersville, WI 
			             d: 13 Feb 1924 in Sherry, WI
			          + Lillian Aspinwall
			            7 John Glenn Lounsbury 
			               b: 22 Jan 1885 in Pipersville, WI 
			               d: 09 Jun 1962 in Port ?, WI
			            + Anna Louise Jorgenson
			              8 Floyd Glenn Lounsbury 
			                 b: 25 Apr 1914 in Stevens Point, WI
			                 d: 14 May 1998 in East Haven, CT



3 Comments

  1. John Cowan said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 12:39 am

    Thus saith the Dictionary of American Family Names from OUP s.v. Lounsbury: “probably a respelling of Lownsbrough, a habitational name from Londesborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which is named with the Old Norse personal name Loþinn + Old English burh ‘stronghold’.”

  2. Sili said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 6:58 am

    I rather like the name Epenetus. Almost makes me want to reproduce – not that I’m sure how to Danishify it.

  3. Ray Girvan said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 7:34 am

    For anyone interested, Lounsbury’s The Standard of Usage in English is available on the Internet Archive here. A taster of the mission statement:

    The aim throughout has been to make as clear as possible what seem to me the only rational and safe grounds upon which to base any trustworthy conclusions as to the propriety or impropriety of words and phrases and constructions, independent of the personal likes and dislikes in which all of us share. This means, above all, the substitution of the authority of the great writers of our speech for the confident assertions of the more or less imperfectly trained and even more imperfectly informed persons who profess to show us what we are to do and what we are to refrain from doing. It further involves the acceptance of the doctrine that rules of grammar are of no value save as they are based upon the practice of these great writers, and that the grammarian who does not make such practice his guide proclaims by that one fact his own incompetence and the worthlessness of the results he reaches.

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