One and the same

A post I had written awhile back on twins in my father’s family included my conclusion that my ancestor Sarah Johnson, who married Nathaniel Eaton in Ashford, Connecticut in 1755, was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba (Janes) Johnson of nearby Lebanon, Connecticut, which gave her a different set of parents than had been stated in family histories and papers.[1] My reasoning for this conclusion was largely ruling other possibilities out, and the interesting situation of several examples of twins in both Sarah’s proposed ancestral family and among her descendants. Still, at this point, I had no direct proof that Sarah was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba. Could I find any?

For eighteenth-century Connecticut genealogy, marriage records rarely stated parents’ names, and with a common name like Sarah Johnson and some potential geographic movement, a first step would be to look to see if a father left a will. However, Sarah was born in 1736 (just six days before her mother’s death), and her father Maverick Johnson died in Lebanon in 1744, when his daughter was just eight years old. While no probate record for Maverick was found, even if one existed, it would have been before Sarah’s marriage, so only useful to confirm she survived infancy.

However, as it was clear Sarah’s parents died fairly young, another strategy is looking for relatives listing Maverick and Bathsheba’s children as heirs of Sarah’s deceased parent. For Sarah’s mother Bathsheba, her father Abel died in 1718 and her mother Mary in 1735, all while Bathsheba was alive, so likely no great record for Sarah there. However, Sarah’s father Maverick Johnson’s father John Johnson died at Lebanon in 1756, several years after his son, and at a point when my Sarah would have married Nathaniel Eaton.

[Another] strategy is looking for relatives listing Maverick and Bathsheba’s children as heirs of Sarah’s deceased parent.

John Johnson of Lebanon left a will dated 29 April and proved 18 May 1756.[2] While he mentions several children, his wording in regards to his deceased son Maverick is less than ideal:

Item I Give and Bequeath unto my Loveing and well beloved GrandSon Marvick Johnson [illegible] hundred pounds to be payed to him by my Son John …

Maverick Johnson [Jr.] was one of several children of Maverick [Sr.] living in 1756 (and not even the oldest surviving child), but the only child mentioned in John’s will. Oh, well. The above will is of course useful in establishing John Johnson of Lebanon as Maverick [Jr.]’s grandfather (and thus that Maverick Johnson [1707–1744] was correctly identified as John’s son, although the vital records of Lebanon were largely clear on that point).

What I then looked for is if any of Sarah Johnson’s brothers or sisters might have died unmarried as adults. This is where things started to come together. I found a distribution for her oldest sibling Ebenezer Johnson (born in 1731) in 1758.[3] The distribution reads:

Persuant to the order of the Court of Probate Held at Lebanon the 27th of December 1757 appointing us as the Subscribers freedholders to Divide & set out that Part of ye Real Estate of Marvirick Johnson Latte of Sd Lebanon Deceased which hath been Set out to his Son Ebenezer Johnson, which is now Deceased (Exclusive of the Quarter of an Acre of Land leased to Abraham Snow) in Equal Parts for Quantity & Quality to Marvirick Johsnon, Stephen Johnson, Sarah Johnson alias Eaton, Bathsehba Johnson alias Rudd, & Deborah Johnson, the heirs of the Sd Ebenezer Johnson Deceased….

Bingo! Ebenezer Johnson died unmarried and real estate was set off to his siblings, with his married sisters being referred to by their married names – thus his sister Sarah Johnson was married by 1757 to an Eaton, perfectly aligning with my theory that Sarah (Johnson) Eaton (married in 1755) was the Sarah born in Lebanon to Maverick and Bathsheba Johnson.

Still, as this division involved real estate, I went one step further. Did my Sarah (Johnson) Eaton sell the land she received from her deceased brother, or any land she received from her deceased father? The answer to that was in Lebanon land records, in two deeds of sale in 1757 and 1758. Sarah and her husband Nathaniel sell land to William Beaumont, with similar language. The important part of the first deed reads:

…. We Nathaniel Eaton & Sarah Eaton his wife both of Woodstock in ye County of Windham & Colony of Connecticut …. [grant to] …. all such right Title estate & interest as the sd Sarah now has or ever had in & unto the real estate of our hond father Mr. Marvarick Johnson late of sd Lebanon …. particularly to that part ….  all of right title estate & interest that we have in the right of the sd Sarah to a Division of Land part of the Sd Estate of Sd Marveric Johnson Decd which was set out to our Brother Ebenezer Johnson late of Sd Lebanon Decd ….[4]

While the clinching documents involved land that Sarah’s father owned, the initial clue was a probate document of Sarah’s unmarried brother, which led in turn to documents clearly linking a family with a relatively common surname, confirming my initial hunch that this family with twins on both ends was one and the same!

Notes

[1] Nathaniel and Sarah are the parents of General William Eaton (1764–1811), discussed in a more recent blog.

[2] Will of John Johnson of Lebanon, 1756, Windham Probate District, no. 2215.

[3] Distribution of Ebenezer Johnson of Lebanon, 1758, Windham Probate District, No. 2205.

[4] Lebanon Land Records, 9: 335, 344-45.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

12 thoughts on “One and the same

  1. These are the kind of discoveries that are totally worth the continued effort. I can imagine you saying out loud, “Hooray’” when it all came together. We all share your good fortune.

  2. This is sound and instructive genealogical research. I wish the same results happened more often, though. I’m looking a you Zenas Lothrop!

  3. You make it look so logical and straightforward. I especially appreciate your clear prose in explaining how you arrived at your conclusion. Thanks for taking the time to share with the rest of us.

  4. I love it when you discover documents proving that your theories were right, or even bits of info that can take you further in your research. It’s like finding buried treasure. Did you locate your documents in an online search? It’s difficult for me with ancestors all over the Midwest and East Coast, to locate documents which have not yet been made available online. I do plan and take genealogy road trips occasionally (I have a very supportive spouse). I was lucky recently to find divorce documents for an ancestor who was a brick wall. Amazingly, this woman was divorced twice between 1850 and 1870. And someone in Tennessee had transcribed and uploaded these Circuit Court documents, which not only listed the grounds for divorce, but the children for each marriage. Up to that point, I thought she had died before the next census, because she was only listed the one time with that spouse/ancestor and their daughter, my 2x great-grandmother.

  5. I had a dumb luck moment when looking for Leonards in the abstracts of wills from Onondaga County, NY. That search was unsuccessful, and my Leonards who moved to Michigan from that county are still a brick wall. BUT–I happened across a will abstract for Asad Wilson. My Ohio brick wall of Robert Wilson had a son named Acead. So I decided to check the abstract, with no real expectation of any link. There were all of Asad’s siblings listed in his will, including my Robert. Hurrah! In this case, Asad was predeceased by all of his children when they were very young, so his will included his wife and his siblings.

  6. Chris, I am descended from Abel Janes and his wife Mary Judd Janes. Last year I did quite a few transcriptions of probate inventories for Lebanon CT residents during the 1700s for a project at the Lebanon Historical Society. Of course I included the ones for any of the Janes children who resided in Lebanon (my 4th great grandmother did not–she had already married when the Janes family removed from Northampton MA to Lebanon in 1705). So I have Marverick Johnson’s inventory and probate file transcribed and will be happy to send it to you. He had a second wife, Deborah Payn and three children with her, as well as the children with Bathsheba and all are addressed. I think the twins were via the Johnson side rather than the Janes as I don’t recall any other twins in the Janes family (but could be wrong of course). I think we are cousins!!

    1. Hi Dana! Thanks so much for the comment. Yes see my blog on twins in the family. Sarah was a twin and her father had twin sisters. I would love to see your transcription of Marverick Johnson’s probate and inventory! Please e-mail at ccchild [at] nehgs.org

  7. I learned a lot from your search and description. The process and the steps you took helped me to understand how I can apply that to some of my ancestors I am researching. Great job!

    1. Sd is the abbreviation for said. It’s commonly used in legal documents.to refer to a formerly named person or a piece of property.

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