Burdick Family Association

Burdick Genealogists

The Burdick family has been blessed with people who have cared about preserving our family's history. Without the efforts of these genealogists we would be like so many others who do not know much more than their grandparents' names. Some say there is an unnatural affliction that causes people to spend their time and resources tracing dead ancestors. If that is true than I, for one, am happy to have this "bug".


William Mansfield Burdick Harcourt (I112050)

Without William Mansfield Burdick Harcourt, or "WMBH" as he is known in Burdick family circles, there would be no Burdick genealogy tracing back to the earliest generations. Even Nellie Johnson dedicated her book to him. He was, without argument, the first and most crucial of the Burdick genealogists.

In the late 1800s the primary method of communication between people separated by long distance was handwritten letters. I can only imagine the number and content of the letters WMBH wrote, and the responses he received. A few of his letters survive and are recorded in Burdick Newsletters. From these examples, we can glean that he must have worked, ate and slept with visions of long-dead ancestors running through his brain.

What caused WMBH to expend the energy and time to investigate and record the early generations of our family? I do not know. Perhaps it was the fact that his father, William Stanton Burdick (I2050), a Burdick by birth, was adopted by the Harcourt family and took their name as his own. Perhaps this is what drove his son, our William, to begin his quest to find those ancestors of his father's bloodline.

Or perhaps it was WMBH's natural curiosity as a newspaperman. Being a proofreader at the Baltimore Sun would have provided him access to research materials unavailable to others. If this is the case, he took full advantage of those resources.

I cannot imagine the undertaking of creating the first Burdick genealogy. Remember, he started with a blank sheet of paper. Other genealogists who followed built on the previous person's work, but he built from scratch.

Whatever his reasons, whatever his methods, all I can say is that I thank our family's lucky stars that WMBH undertook and completed the task he did.

Heber Jedediah Grant (I1004668)

Did you know that the works of WMBH were nearly lost to history? We would have lost our heritage had it not been for the intervention (perhaps Devine intervention) of Heber Grant.

After hearing about what Mr. Grant did for our family you may not consider him a "genealogist," but I do. You can read the entire intriguing story about him in the July/August, 2005 Burdick Newsletter, but I'll synopsize it here.

Heber Grant was the seventh President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As most people know, the Mormons are very family-oriented and have taken great pains to record their family histories. Some of the first Mormons were Burdicks. Rebecca Burdick (I811) married Hiram Winters and the couple made the long trek to Utah. Unfortunately, Rebecca did not make it, you can read her story in the March/April, 2005 Burdick Newsletter.

One of Mr. Grant's wives (he had three) was Hulda Augusta Winters, one of Hiram and Rebecca's descendants. Hulda had heard of Mr. Harcourt's work on the Burdick genealogy, so on a trip to Washington, DC in 1920 the Grants set out to meet him. Unfortunately, he had passed away several years before. The couple then set upon a quest to find the manuscripts. They found them, rotting outside in a backyard in Baltimore.

The Grants took the materials back to Salt Lake City where a staff of secretaries transcribed them into typewritten pages. Additional information was added from the LDS archives and lay waiting for the next stage of development, which would not be too long.

Nellie Willard Johnson (I212059)

For the last 80 years, if you ask any Burdick family member familiar with our history who the source of data is, they would answer - Nellie Johnson of Norwich, NY. As with WMBH, I do not know what drove Nellie to do what she did, but I am enternally grateful she did it.

Using the transcripts of William Harcourt supplied by the Grants, and with assistance from Dr. Alfred Burdick (I3335), Mr. Harcourt's collaborator, and others, Mrs. Johnson set about compiling the Burdick information into a cohesive text that became the 1937 book so many of us know and love: "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island".

She, of course, performed her own original correspondance and research to bring the Burdick family tree up to date. As with WMBH, Nellie did this all without the aid of today's electronic tools, which makes accomplishment of producing a 1400 -page book, with small print, all the more spectacular.

This book has stood the test of time, remaining as the undisputed source of all things Burdick. While there are errors (how could there not be!) it provides us with what so many families wish they had. In 1953 Nellie produced a 230-page supplement to correct or add more information, but it was only her notes typed by girls at the Norwich High School. Needless to say, the supplement is not anywhere near the quality of the original book, but as I have learned... I'll take ANY information over NO information.

It was Nellie's book that my mother "discovered" in the Detroit Public Library when I was a child. Her excitement was passed onto me and is one of the reason I love and appreciate genealogy to this day.

My goal has always been to pick up where Nellie left off, and fill in the last 80 years of Burdick family information for future generations. I hope that I am and will continue to accomplish that. It is only with your help that I can.

Frank P. Mueller (I1031149)

Frank was a different type of genealogist, and the only one I had the honor to know personally. He was not a Burdick but married into the family. His wife Lorraine (I1031148) was one of the line of Burdicks that hailed from Chicago.

Frank had a long career in sales management and had always been interested in the Burdick family. After retiring and moving to Sarasota, FL, Frank had time to concentrate on his new goal: to write a book about the Burdick family. But he did not want to produce something like Nellie Johnson's book, he referred to those types of genealogies as "telephone directories." He wanted to produce something that looked at the family from a different angle.

The result was his 1990 book, "The Burdick Family Chronology." It traces the family's origins back to its possible Viking roots, through Normandy in France, then England and finally to America.

What I think is special about Frank's book is that it looks at family history as story-telling. There are many vignettes of family members and how the Burdick family impacted North American history. Frank was in direct contact with many, many people and used those connections to tell their stories.

I know that some discount what Frank did, but I do not. There is plenty of room in the genealogy world for multiple viewpoints and if one does not meet the "standards" set by others it does not make it any less valuable.

Most copies of Frank's book are in genealogy libraries across the country, which is what he wanted. If you have a facility near you, I would recommend seeing if they have it. Read it and you will likely learn something you did not know before.

Next?

Who will be the next Burdick genealogist? I have no idea, but I'll make a few predictions based on operating this web site for many years.

First, I think that our next genealogist will not be a single person. Our world is now so interconnect that a person working in solitude to produce a once-in-a-lifetime work is not likely to happen. I believe the "next" genealogist (or more accurately, genealogists) are already laboring amongst us. Several hundred of you have already helped me extend the Burdick genealogy to twice the volume that Nellie Johnson produced, and I consider all of you our next family genealogists.

I also believe that, as our family continues to grow larger, each of our genealogists will focus on a particular branch of the family - their branch. Unfortunately, this means that some branches will wither and die. But I am hopeful there will be continuing spikes of interest in these neglected lines and effort will be extended to bring them up-to-date. I see it happen all the time and there is no reason for it to change. New (and younger) family members continue to arrive in my inbox wanting to discover their roots.


So there you have the Burdick genealogists. Past, present and future. If you have an interest in our family, or just your own slice of it, please record what you know. It is important. Please don't wait until it's too late.

In case you are wondering why I have not included myself in this list, the answer is simple. I do not consider myself to be a genealogist. As I have told many people, I am a "facilitator." My role is to put people and information together. Beside, the job of a genealogist is much too difficult for me! I have the utmost respect for those of you, like these past genelogists, who do the real work of discovering our family's past.

As Isaac Newton wrote in 1676: "If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants." Thank you, Burdick Giants: WMBH, Heber Grant, Nellie Johnson, Frank Mueller, and all the current and future Burdick genealogists.


Copyright Howard E. Burdick 2017. All Rights Reserved.

howard@burdickfamily.org