I’ve only been to the NEGHS once. I prepared pretty carefully for my pilgrimage, took the train into Back Bay Station, walked a few blocks and there I was, standing in front of the brass doors. I even took a picture.
Sure, I learned some interesting things that day. I found a deed on microfilm from Cumberland, Rhode Island that was helpful. I read some journal articles of interest. I wasted time in the printed genealogy section … it’s hard to leave the stacks. I enjoyed the lobby display of current publications and found a book about the Arnold family that I had not been aware of. I bought it, and on the train ride back discovered that there was a mistake in my Arnold line and I need to do further research.
But let’s get back to what I saw.
I knew that the first thing I would want to do at the library was ask to see the one manuscript they have that had belonged to my family. I learned about it in The Register which is indexed online. A note in volume 51 (1897) on page 219 reads as follows:
Thwing and Aldrich — The following record is copied from stray leaves of two Bibles which were presented to this Society by P. K. Foley, Esq., of Boston:
[I. Thwing - let's skip this; not my family]
II. Nathan Aldrich born March the 19 A.D. 1773
Anna Aldrich Born June the 21 A.D. 1800
Chloe Aldrich Born September 2 A.D. 1773
Edmon Aldrich Born April 8: 1810
Calib Aldrich Born September the 25th, 1813 & He Died in October the 5th 1813
Edmon Aldrich Died September the 4, 1814
William Aldrich Born May 14, 1815
Sarah Jain Aldrich Born February 21, 1817
Chloe Aldrich Died March 10, 1826.
Wait … who are these people?
To the best of my knowledge Nathan Aldrich was married 3 times:
- Mercy Ballou — mother of Anna
- Chloe Crowninshield — mother of the other children
- Lois Grant
At the Burnt Swamp Road Cemetery in the Sheldonville section of Wrentham, Mass., Nathan is buried between wives number 2 and 3 (who I believe were cousins to each other). There is some normal documentation of those two marriages. Of course the poorly documented marriage is the one I’m descended from; Mercy is my ggggg-grandmother and Nathan is my ggggg-grandfather. I am ANNA’s descendant.
I had gotten my first faint evidence of the Mercy/Nathan marriage in an old Ballou genealogy. But when I found this Bible entry it left me with a lot of questions about Mercy. Why wasn’t she on the list? Why wasn’t she in the cemetery?
As I got better at hunting old newspaper stories I found two items using GenealogyBank.com. In 1802, Nathan disowned Mercy in the Providence Patriot:
Whereas Marcy, wife of me the subscriber, hath separated herself from me and at sundry times has unnecessarily run me in debt: These are therefore to forbid all persons trusting her on my account, as I am determined to pay no debts of her contracting from the date hereof. NATHAN ALDRICH, Cumberland, May 5, 1802.
In 1817 this was followed by an item about the daughter, Nancy:
Whereas Nancy Ann Aldrich, daughter of the subscriber, has behaved herself in an unbecoming manner, it has brought her father under the painful necessity of forbidding all persons from harboring or trusting her on my account, as I am determined not to pay any debts of her contracting after this day. — NATHAN ALDRICH, Wrentham, June 14
I have not discovered a death or divorce record for Nathan and Mercy. I don’t know what happened to her. However Nathan and Nancy (“Anna”)’s relationship was, I believe, eventually repaired. A few years later she married a local boy, Paul Darling, and went on to have five children. Late in life, Nathan and third wife Lois were living with one of Nancy’s sons and his family on the family farm. And more than that we may never know.
… what was in the Bible?
The document turned out to be just the one leaf from the Bible, not the book itself. But I’m grateful that Mr. Foley rescued this from whatever book stall it ended up in in 1897. The archivist brought it over to me at a table. It was in a protective binder.
I opened the cover and realized that seeing the original is worth a hundred transcriptions any day. This is what I saw:
Mercy had been blacked out. She had an entry which was eradicated. But I realized that if I tried hard, I could read the original writing:
Marcy Aldrich Born
April the 19 1778
At my request the kind archive lady came over and peered at the page from different angles with me. We agreed on what it said.
This offers the first real evidence for Mercy’s family and matches the theory I had gleaned from the old Ballou book and some Rhode Island birth records. She is the daughter of Richard and Lucy Ballou.
I am grateful to the NEHGS for saving such an insignificant scrap. This part of my family is poorly documented and obscure. I have found no evidence that any other descendants of Nathan Aldrich are doing research. I would venture to guess that I’m the first person to request that archival record in the 114 years it’s been sitting there.
And despite a little resentment about the “unbecoming behavior” remark, it meant a great deal to me to hold something in my hand that my ggggg-grandfather wrote in 1800.
Thank you, NEHGS.
There is a further update to this story found in the post “A Visit to the Rhode Island Judicial Archives.”