Research for writing an article for publication by the Underhill Society of America
In my first year of research, I focused on "filling in the blanks" in a Family Chart my mother had from the Steuben County Historian in the early 1980s. Then early this year I found that Portia Maria Underhill, youngest sister of my great great grandfather, had joined the Oneida Community, when I located a NYS Census record in 1870. Through just a few inquiries I was connected with a man who is the Genealogist for the Oneida Community, who sent me two large PDF files of his research focusing on Portia M. Underhill and the man who became her husband, Henry Grosvenor Allen, after the Oneida Community's reforms allowed monogamous marriage. He had found data I struggled to understand in the context of "communal life" according to the teachings of John Humphrey Noyes, who founded the community. I read a book entitled "Without Sin" about the community published in 1993, then several additional publications. I was asked to write a report for publication, which I found quite challenging for it had to be less than 5,000 words and ready by roughly 1 July 2012. I submitted my writings, and then was offered editorial help structuring the paper, which made the result more lucid, readable, and structurally consistent. Two men, one from the Oneida Community's cadre of tour guides and one from the Underhill Society of America helped me pull this report together. I feel a stronger connection to all my ancestors through this effort, and am grateful for having been given an opportunity to grow in my understanding of a complex community in which people strove for a "social contract" which every member shared. It was a hundred years before Haight Ashbury and Woodstock !! The community's descendants continue to support the legacy of the roughly 300 members, and the Mansion House in which the community lived is a National Historic Landmark, open to visitors for tours. I visited in late August 2012 and was very impressed by the professional tour given, and the history which is exhibited in displays there. It encourages us all to learn more about the individuals and groups which made up our multifaceted culture a century ago.