It has been almost a year since I last wrote about the search for Lucy Arnold‘s family. The questions right now are:
- Are Thomas Arnold and his wife Rachel (possibly Smith) the parents of Lucy?
- Do Thomas Arnold’s deeds provide clues about his wife’s family (possibly Smiths)?
As I looked at the date of my last post, I had to admit, it is NORMAL for a year to go by with no news. This “brick wall” is pretty strong but, I think, solvable. I am related to Lucy Arnold in the following way: my grandmother Edna Darling –> Russell Darling –> Addison Parmenter Darling –> Ellis Aldrich Darling –> Nancy Anna Aldrich –> Mercy Ballou –> Lucy Arnold.
My current strategy is to examine deeds from Smithfield, Rhode Island to see what I can learn about Thomas Arnold’s life, and also to compare these details with other sources of information like tax and census records. On my recent trip to the Family History Library I had a chance to save about 21 deeds from Smithfield, Rhode Island, of property transactions under the name of Thomas Arnold. Once I got the copies home, here is what I did.
Analyzing the deeds
- I re-read the chapters on deeds and probate from Val Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. (Third Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2000.) Always good to know what a messuage is (a dwelling) and in this case, the definitions of rod (16-1/2 feet), chain (66 feet), and link (7.92 inches). Mr. Greenwood always has excellent advice.
- I reviewed each deed closely for clues that they referred to OTHER Thomas Arnolds. I eliminated seven deeds, leaving 14.
- I abstracted the fourteen deeds into about 6 pages of notes.
- I abstracted the notes into a chart.
A READABLE pdf version of the chart is HERE.
The five deeds colored in green seem to me to definitely belong to Thomas Arnold. The five marked in blue are additional deeds ascribed to this Thomas Arnold in Richard Benson’s book, The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island (citation below). The remaining four, in white, may very possibly refer to Thomas Arnold.
I will go through these one by one and give the best evidence only. I really can’t rule any of these out. I investigated the persons mentioned below primarily through my own tree and the sources cited at the bottom of the post.
What I noticed about the people
- 1764 – Seller is John Smith 3rd and his wife Mary Smith. While common names, I suspect the Mary is Mary Phillips, who would be a cousin of Lucy Arnold’s future mother in law, Elizabeth (Phillips) Ballou. I am unsure of the Smith connection.
- 1766 – “… by my father Thomas Arnold, deceased.”
- 1776 – Witness George Comstock is married to Thomas Arnold’s sister, Catherine.
- 1766 – Seller Thomas Smith is possibly the son of the couple in the next deed (#5)
- 1767 – Sellers Thomas Smith (physician) and his wife Abigail (Aldrich) were neighbors of Thomas Arnold. I had a theory this couple could possibly by Rachel’s parents. But after finding the wills of Dr. Thomas (1777) and Abigail Smith (1783) online (THAT was lucky, thank you, Dan!) , I suspect Rachel was not their daughter.
- 1767 – Seller John Arnold (married to Martha Bucklin) was Thomas Arnold‘s half-brother.
- 1768 – This is the only deed where Thomas Arnold‘s wife Rachel is also on the deed.
- 1770 – The witnesses (the Herendeens) appear in several other deeds as witnesses. Other than that, no clues.
- same as #8.
- 1770 – Witnesses Jacob Arnold was likely Thomas‘ cousin (son of Joseph Arnold).
- 1770 – Buyer Jacob Arnold, named in #10. Witness Caleb Arnold, also likely a cousin (and brother to Jacob).
- 1772 – Thomas Arnold sold a large property, that he lived on, to Israel Wilkinson.
- 1774 – Thomas Arnold sold a tiny amount of property to his uncle Peleg Arnold.
- Witness Joseph Buffum was married to Thomas Arnold‘s half-sister, Lydia. Buyer Caleb Arnold was the cousin mentioned in #11.
A general note about the names – several named individuals who are not closely related to Thomas Arnold seem to be descended from the Eleazer Arnold branch. This could be a coincidence (I believe they were among the wealthier inhabitants) or perhaps Rachel is related to them.
What I noticed about the property
- The place clues I found included Trout Brook, Thousand Acre Line, Cedar Swamp, Hemlock Island, iron forge, iron mill, the Branch River, forge, Crook Fall River, brook near Camp Bridge, Edmund Arnold’s dam, Daley’s Hole, cedar swamp at Woonsoket, Seven Mile Line/Abbot’s Line.
- I am not getting a lot of information from my attempt to match some locations. But if I could compare it to a map of the early Smithfield homesteads, it might be helpful.
What I noticed about the sequence of events
- 1765 [note: Thomas Arnold was 32 years old] – Thomas Arnold’s father, Judge Thomas Arnold, died in 1765. His grandfather, Hezekiah Comstock, died in 1764 and made a bequest to him, among many others. The judge divided a forge among several heirs; the details are not clear to me since I haven’t read the probate record yet (there were mentions of it in the Arnold book).
- 1767 – Thomas Arnold bought a quarter share of a forge and some property from his half-brother John Arnold for 150 pounds.
- 1770 – Thomas Arnold sold a quarter share in a forge to a blacksmith for 84 pounds.
- 1770 – That same blacksmith sold 110 acres of land and his dwelling to Thomas Arnold for 480 pounds.
- 1770 – Thomas Arnold sold “my homestead where I now dwell” to John Comstock (probably a relative) for 140 pounds
- 1772 – Thomas Arnold sold “land on which I now dwell” and 107 acres to Israel Wilkinson for 520 pounds.
- 1774 – a small sale of land to uncle Peleg Arnold
- 1774 – the 1774 state census shows a Thomas Arnold family of six.
- 1778 – The Smithfield 1778 tax record shows only one Thomas Arnold, with property (a horse) worth 12 pounds.
- 1790 – Thomas Arnold is not in the federal census of 1790 in Smithfield.
The death dates and burial records of Thomas and Rachel are unknown to me and I’ve never found a probate record. Did they become impoverished, or ill? Did they move elsewhere? Did they move in with family? There are few or no vital records for this family; most books put details together from other records.
- Visit Smithfield and explore each of these places more thoroughly; visit the public library there.
- Investigate the possibility that Thomas Arnold left Smithfield for a nearby town or possibly near other relatives in New York state. Try to find a probate record and see if Lucy or Lucy’s children are mentioned.
- Explore the impact of the Revolutionary War on Smithfield and its soldiers. I don’t think Thomas Arnold died as a soldier. Was he disabled?
- Several of Thomas’ siblings were Quakers. Explore Quaker records at the RI Historical Society.
- Read Thomas Arnold’s father’s probate record – probably on microfilm at the RI Historical Society.
- Investigate every Rachel living before 1730 in or near Smithfield (any area on the north side of Providence, at that point). Rachel may well have been named for someone.
- Keep investigating every name on the deed grid I made. I suspect someone on there is closely related to Rachel, and it’s not the ones I thought. There are some Arnolds from the “Eleazer” branch – could Rachel descend from them?
- Cast a wider net around the Dr Thomas Smith and his wife Abigail mentioned in some deeds. I now know Rachel is unlikely to be their daughter, but may be related.
- Find early maps of Smithfield homesteads.
- Keep exploring the Providence Gazzette, available on GenealogyBank.com for this period.
- Move in the other direction, and learn more about Lucy Arnold and Richard Ballou. They moved to a different section of town, but perhaps one of her relatives also moved near them.
As I learn more about these people, places, and resources, I find myself growing more curious and knowledgeable, and making connections easily. I would say my work on this one is about 35% done. So while not a “success” story yet, it IS moving along in the way that many tough problems do.
- Austin, John Osborne. The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island, with Additions and Corrections by John Osborne Austin, and Additions and Corrections by G. Andrews Moriarty. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969.
- Ballou, Adin. An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America Providence: E.L. Freeman & Son, 1888.
- Bartlett, John R. (arranged by). Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations … 1774. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co., 1858.
- Benson, Richard H. The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island. Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009.
- Farnham, Charles William. “John Smith, The Miller, of Providence, Rhode Island – Some of His Descendants” in Genealogies of Rhode Island Families From Rhode Island Periodicals, volume II, p. 1 – 150. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983 [originally appeared in the 1960’s as a series of articles in Rhode Island History, v. 20 – 24].
- Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790 – Rhode Island. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1977.
- Richardson, E. History of Woonsocket. Woonsocket: S.S. Foss, 1876.
- Sanborn, Melinda Lutz. “Smithfield, Rhode Island Death Records Culled from Probate.” New England Historic Genealogical Register, October 1992, p. 343-351.
- “Smithfield 1778 Tax List” a series of articles in Rhode Island Roots (a periodical from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society), 1995-1997.
- Steere, Thomas. History of the Town of Smithfield. Providence: E.L. Freeman, 1881.
- Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. 3 volumes. Boston, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.
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