So in my search for the origins of the Jesse and Sarah Andrews who lived in Ashford, Connecticut in 1820, I have concentrated recently (see the previous post) on a family by that name who seemed to disappear from Warwick, Rhode Island after 1810.
As the search goes on, I have come to believe that poverty is playing a big role in the lack of available evidence. Around 1800, most of my other New England ancestors were doing many of the following things:
- farming, and using ear marks for cattle (well maybe ear marks were more common in 1700)
- buying and selling property; paying taxes
- recorded in state or federal census records
- occasionally: divorce or other lawsuits, licenses for various businesses, church membership, graduating from college
- holding various small public service positions in their towns or serving in the military
- recording the births of children with the town
- having their own death noted briefly in a local paper, and/or recorded by the town
- leaving an estate that required probate and/or guardianship of children
- buried in a grave with a marker
But, not so much with Jesse Andrews. While I do have some good evidence of his parentage and his father’s family tree, this is all I have on Jesse himself:
- 1795 – Jesse Andrews and Sally Arnold married in Warwick, by James Jerrauld, Justice. He was the son of “Philip, dec.” She was the daughter of Joseph.
- 1797 – Jesse, a “mariner”, purchased a house and lot on Main Street, East Greenwich, R.I. His brother Christopher seemed to have a half share of it.
- 1798 – Jesse, age 32, received a Seaman’s Protection Certificate, Providence, Rhode Island. Reportedly had been born in Warwick R.I.
- 1799 – Jesse returned from a 4 month voyage to Surinam as crew on the Brig Fanny (B. Alger, Master)
- 1800 – Jesse, “yeoman alias mariner” sold the East Greenwich house and lot. Christopher seemed to sell his half share.
- 1800 – Census – Jesse was living in Warwick with 3 children and two women. Joseph Arnold was a neighbor. Freelove Andrews was next door (may possibly be his widowed mother)
- 1810 – Census – Jesse living in Warwick with an adult female and 7 children under 16. Joseph Arnold was a neighbor. Freelove Andrews was next door (may possibly be his widowed mother)
- — THIS IS THE POINT WHERE THE TWO FAMILIES MAY OR MAY NOT BE THE SAME —
- 1820 – Census – Jesse living in Ashford, CT with two females over 16 and 8 children under 16.
- 1830 – Census – Jesse living in Ashford, CT with a female, 50-59.
- 1832 – Jesse purchased a 50 acre property in southeastern Ashford, with a mortgage
- 1838 – Jesse sold the 50 acre property to his son Alden; Alden mortgaged it, then sold it in 1839.
- 1838 – when daughter Hannah (my ggg-grandmother) married in 1838, she was “of Ashford.”
- [after this, I find records for a Benjamin B. Andrews and widowed mother Sarah – not proved she is the same Sarah. No death record for Sarah.]
Looking for family and neighbors
I have been tracking family and neighbors like crazy. That is probably the only thing that will solve this but so far, it has only provided numerous clues. There are three main impediments: (1) I only know one of Jesse’s siblings, but early census records show there are at least five more; (2) I only know two of Jesse’s children, but census records indicate there may be five more, and (3) Sally Arnold’s father was named Joseph Arnold, which is not only an incredibly common name in the area, but is shared with two others that made dozens of land transactions. So I am still wading through that.
Years in Rhode Island
Jesse does not appear in the East Greenwich or Warwick land records except for the brief ownership of a house on Main Street, East Greenwich (which is adjacent to Warwick – the busy street is half East Greenwich, half Warwick). The house and lot in East Greenwich were “24 square rods of land” (equals less than a sixth acre) so clearly Jesse was not going into farming on his own. Since the deeds indicate he was a mariner in 1797 and was, by 1800, “yeoman, alias mariner” we know it’s the same person, but I can only suppose “yeoman” meant, in this case, farming someone else’s land, perhaps his father in law’s, Joseph Arnold, who seems to be nearby in the census.
The crew lists I examined at the Rhode Island Historical Society begin around 1797, so although I only have one record of a voyage for him, he may have had earlier voyages. But clearly, from the deeds, he transitioned from mariner to yeoman by 1800. I assume his plan to support a house for his growing family was not sustainable, although perhaps there was another reason to give up the house.
Years in Connecticut
Other than the land transactions in Ashford which definitely tie Jesse to the son I know about, Alden, and pretty much prove to me that the Jesse in Ashford is indeed my gggg grandfather, I am finding nothing else in Connecticut – no probate, no other property, no taxes, no death record for him or for Sarah, no graves, and no military records.
The one decent theory I have, tying Jesse & Sarah Andrews of Ashford to the Warwick couple, is reinforced by the numbers in the 1810 and 1820 census records – they had 7 children under 16 in 1810, and 8 in 1820. A possible son, and his widowed mother Sarah, consistently claim after 1840 to have been born in Rhode Island. This additional son is named Benjamin B. Andrews. He lived with a mother Sarah from about 1840 until 1861 when, I believe, she died. I was surprised to see, as he grew older, that Benjamin developed quite a criminal record.
The life of a chicken thief
As I was preparing for my trip to the Connecticut State Archives, I came across a search screen for “Databases of Individuals Listed in State Archives Records“. None of the data sets looked appropriate for my Andrews family so on a whim I tried “Wethersfield Prison Records 1800-1903.” Uh oh. A search for Andrews turned up this:
- last name: Andrews
- first name: Benjamin
- residence: Eastford
- court: Windham
- crime: breaking and entering
- victim: Higginbotham, Daniel
- prison term: one year, six months
- date issued: 2/14/1882
This was the person I have tentatively identified as Jesse’s son. So that was not cheerful news, and I started a newspaper search for more details of Benjamin’s life (I knew he had lived in the towns of Ashford/Eastford, and Norwich at various times; he married twice, to Lucy B Snow, and Mary Ann Davis). I found various criminal convictions, such as:
- 09 December 1864 – Benjamin B. Andrews of Norwich, Ct., went out robbing hen roosts, on the 2d stole about a wagon load, was arrested, examined, case adjourned, and then he took leg bail. [note – I believe that means he ran off]. (Springfield Union (Springfield, MA), p. 2).
- 03 March 1866 – Benjamin B. Andrews of Norwich, has been arrested and bound over for trial by the superior court for pretending to be a justice of the peace and marrying a couple. (Providence Evening Press (Providence, RI) vol. XIV, iss. 157, p. 3). Same story – 17 March 1866 (Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA), p. 8).
- 30 April 1878 – Benjamin Andrews from Eastford, was brought before Judge Tilden last week, charged with stealing 10 chickens from Cha. Simpson of South Windham. He was found guilty on circumstantial evidence, and fined $5 and costs. He appealed, and in default of bonds was sent to Brooklyn to await trial. He was well known at the jail, and bears a bad reputation among his neighbors. It is stated that one year he sold 200 chickens and did not raise one of them. (Willimantic Enterprise News, as transcribed on the Ancestry.com Message Board for “1877 Willimantic Enterprise News” item #1262)
- 20 March 1882 – Benjamin Andrews, one of a gang of burglars who have plundered many houses in Windham County, has been sent to state prison for a year. (New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) vol. XLII, iss. 66, p. 4.)
Benjamin had married twice, and had several children. He was usually listed as a farmer. Whether he was pursuing criminal activity his whole life, or only later in life, I don’t know. He died of “Peritonitis” in 1885. Benjamin appears in the Eastford, Connecticut death records (Town of Eastford Births Marriages Deaths, vol. 3 1881-1886, p.210-211) with no place of birth, parents, or exact age listed. Court or even prison records, if I can find them, might reveal more about his origins.
Poverty and genealogy
Jesse Andrew’s lack of wealth and property are holding back my progress on this search. This will not come as news to genealogists, of course. And it could be pointed out that sometimes, poverty itself causes records to be produced for an individual – “warnings out” for out-of-town residents who were falling on hard times, to put them on notice not to expect town support if needed, and perhaps consider relocating to their home town, also repayment by the town for support of the poor by residents who “bid” to house and feed them, or perhaps for the coffin and burial. Interviews were often a part of the warning-out system, involving the life story of the poor person, since the home town needed to be determined, and the rules on that were convoluted. Finding any stray remnants of such interviews can be extremely helpful, of course.
In my frustration with the Jesse Andrews question I turned for help to a book which focuses on poverty in 18th-century Rhode Island. Unwelcome Americans by Ruth Wallis Herndon (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) traces the stories of 40 Rhode Island paupers, presenting as much of their lives, families, and experiences as can be known. Genealogists would enjoy the book, which attempts to tell the stories that other history books never will. Often, the stories are partial – a glimpse of a well-documented span of a couple years, perhaps, with no clear beginning and no clear end. Because a number of Ruth’s profiles are of Warwick residents, I hoped to find some familiar names, but did not. But I learned a lot about the undocumented nature of the life of paupers, and about the communities she describes in Rhode Island.
This glimpse into the world of Rhode Island’s somewhat invisible classes helped me to realize that Jesse’s absence from town and tax records, vital records, newspapers, probate records, and cemeteries, with only brief stints of property ownership, probably puts him in the struggling un-landed class, with no real trade. According to Unwelcome Americans, stints as ship crew members were common for poorer families during this period. In neither location did Jesse’s fortunes sink low enough to put him on public assistance (I would have seen that in the town records I looked at). In Warwick I suspect, from the census record evidence, that he and his wife usually lived with her father, or his mother. By the time they got to Ashford, Connecticut, some of the older children were capable of helping out. Indeed, an older sibling must have taken in the younger children if the 1830 census, showing Jesse and Sarah living alone, is to be believed, because daughter Hannah was only 12 then.
The pattern that I noticed with many of my 19th century southern New England ancestors, that gradually lost the last remnants of family land after it had been divided many times over, seemed to strike early with Jesse Andrews and his family. They were poor. Therefore I plan to pursue the following record types now:
- General Assembly records in Rhode Island – a Joseph Arnold of Warwick petitioned the General Assembly as an insolvent debtor in 1823. While not certain to be Sarah’s father, it just might be since the record is unlikely to belong to the two wealthy Joseph Arnolds that I am already aware of. This would be at the Rhode Island State Archives.
- Court records in Rhode Island – there is a Kent County Court of Common Pleas record for the same petition, above. This should be at the Rhode Island Judicial Archives.
- Court records in Connecticut – there should be records related to some of Benjamin B. Andrews’ crimes, listed above (and many more, I expect). If I could prove that he was Jesse’s son, that would be very significant, since he and his mother Sarah were born in Rhode Island.
- Factory town records – since there is little evidence of the Andrews children in Ashford (for instance, their marriages), I should explore the Norwich area to see if they sought factory jobs there. Son Alden pursued farming for the rest of his life, but there is no evidence of who the other children were or what they did. My guess would be, they sought out factory jobs, or migrated north or west in search of available farmland. Since daughter Hannah presumably met her husband in Norwich, and he worked in a factory there, I have sometimes wondered if she was a young factory worker, or living in town with older siblings.
- Military records – Jesse’s father Philip served in the Revolutionary War, and died young, and I see no evidence that his widow (whose name I am unsure of) ever filed for a widow’s pension. But I will keep looking.
- Town records in Ashford – Although I have covered deeds, vital, probate and cemetery records in Ashford, I need to look more thoroughly through the town council records.
Sources for Warwick
I would not be nearly as far along with the Warwick/East Greenwich information without the following valuable works, all published by the Rhode Island Genealogical Society. The first two contain hundreds of amazing footnotes explaining relationships and circumstances of the individuals named. The last four books are transcriptions of some town council records.
- Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. The Diary of Capt. Samuel Tillinghast of Warwick, Rhode Island 1757-1766. Greenville, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society (Special Publication No. 3), 2000.
- Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. Elder John Gorton and the Six Principle Baptist Church of East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Greenville, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society (Special Publication No. 6), 2001.
- Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: East Greenwich Town Council Records, 1734 – 1774. Rhode Island Roots Special Bonus Issue 2008.
- Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: East Greenwich Town Council Records, 1775 – 1800. Rhode Island Roots Special Bonus Issue 2009.
- Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Warwick Town Council Records, 1742 – 1780. Rhode Island Roots Special Bonus Issue 2012.
- Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Warwick Town Council Records, 1781 – 1801. Rhode Island Roots Special Bonus Issue 2013.
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