Archive for the ‘Ballou’ Category

Locating Richard Ballou

My recent interest in learning more about my 6x-great grandfather Richard Ballou began with the arrival, in my inbox, of an 1838 map of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  This was sent by genealogy blogger-buddy John Tew, of Filiopietism Prism.  Link here for instructions on how to get a free copy of that map, electronically, which John has kindly offered.  I highly recommend that to Cumberland researchers.

I knew quite a bit about Richard Ballou; his ancestry in the Ballou line is Richard5, John4, John3, John2, Maturin1.  I am descended from him in the following way:

  • Richard Ballou (1751 – 1824)
  • Marcy Ballou (1778 – )
  • Nancy Ann Aldrich (1800 – 1879)
  • Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824 – 1883)
  • Addison Parmenter Darling (1856 – 1933)
  • Russell Earl Darling (1883 – 1959)
  • Edna May Darling (1905 – 1999), my grandmother

But I knew very little about his life, and the map made me think I could at least find the spot where he lived.

Compiled sources – Ballou genealogy book

Richard Ballou was born around 1751 to John Ballou and Elizabeth Phillips in the Louisquisset section of Smithfield, Rhode Island.    Richard’s life is described on page 116 of the well-respected Adin Ballou book:

Richard Ballou was a sturdy, industrious, frugal farmer.  He sold out his inheritance in the old Smithfield, John Ballou homestead in 1777 to his bro. Benjamin, and settled in the extreme northeasterly section of Cumberland.  There he and his wife spent their cunnubial days.  Their home was near what was formerly known as Hathaway Mills.

He married Lucy Arnold of Smithfield.  Their children Marcy, Arnold, Lydia, Augustin, Thomas, Richard, Lucy, Willard and Polly were recorded at Cumberland.

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 1, Cumberland Town Hall

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 1, Cumberland Town Hall

I found further information in Abigail Sprague’s manuscript of Notes on a History of Cumberland, Rhode Island. A copy of this manuscript is available at the Rhode Island Historical Society.  You can see an extensive Finding Aid here.  This was the third time I’ve looked at some of the folders.  Now that I know more about the families involved I realize it is possible, sometimes, to tell where she is getting the information in her notes.  In the case of the Ballous, she is using the Adin Ballou book and Richardson’s History of Woonsocket.

I looked at her folder of notes on Hathaway Mills.  Mrs. Sprague had a letter in there explaining the location of the corn and saw mills.  At last, I realized the spot on the 1838 map marked “Corn & Saw” mills was the Hathaway Mills.

Church records

One part of this story that has always been confusing is that there is a rather distant branch of the Ballous that lived in northern Cumberland, too, descendents in the James4, James3, James2, Maturin1 line.  They lived in the “Elder Ballou Meeting House” area and were Six Principle Baptists.  I visited the cemetery there once; fascinating, possibly haunted, but does not contain my ancestors.  Richard Ballou’s branch had settled just north of Providence in Louisquisset, and he and his wife came up to northern Cumberland alone, without siblings.  So it’s common to find Ballous in northern Cumberland, but it would have been wrong to assume that Richard Ballou was closely related to that group, or to that church.  There is no evidence of that.
Elder Ballou Cemetery, Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Photo by Diane Boumenot, February, 2012

Elder Ballou Cemetery, Cumberland, Rhode Island. Photo by Diane Boumenot, February, 2012

Census records
Richard Ballou appears in several census records.  I found the federal census records on Ancestry.com.
  • 1777 Military Census (see Chamberlin, below), page 93.
  • 1790 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I. Richard appears on page 256 between John Darling, Job Whipple, Sylvanus Hathaway, Stacy Bosworth, and Nathaniel Gould, William Follett, Simon Bishop.  These were the same people he buys and sells land from.
  • 1800 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I.  Richard appears between Aaron Grant, Nathan Whipple, Asa Aldrich, and Gideon Ray, Job Hathaway.
  • 1810 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I.  Richard appears between Job Hathaway and Arnold Ballou, John Darling, Job Fuller.  This record is dark and not indexed properly, I went page by page.
  • 1820 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I.   Entries are alphabetized so not useful for finding neighbors.  Not indexed properly; Ballou appears as “Ballon”.
Vital records
I have never found a hint of another Richard Ballou in the general area, except of course his son, born in 1788.  But I do approach any record with his name cautiously.
Richard has no death record that I have found, so all I had known about his death was the will abstract from volume 5 of the Rhode Island Genealogical Register.  To find out more, I went to the Cumberland Town Hall, where I found the page of entries (above) for the births of his children.  It seems strange that his probate was handled in Cumberland but they did not seem to record his death with the other vital records, but I guess that is the case.
Cumberland Town Hall, viewed from the side.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Cumberland Town Hall, viewed from the side. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The journal Rhode Island Roots of March, 1995 has a 1778 tax list for Smithfield, Rhode Island, where Richard was living (see Rhode Island Roots, “A list of the polls …” below).  That was the year that his first child, my 5x-great-grandmother Marcy Ballou was born.  The record shows the following taxable property:
Ballou, Richard 1 poll; house, 3 horned cattle, 5 sheep 1 goat, 2 swine, 6 acres pasture to keep 2 cows, 2 acres tillage, 30 bushels grain; 5 acres mowing; 3 tons English hay, 17 acres wood & waste land, total acres 30; 2 pounds debt; 14.10 pounds personal estate; 100 pounds real estate; rateable value 114.10 pounds.

I spent another afternoon recording his property records.  I found many more records than I really expected to, and I probably did not capture all deeds with Richard Ballou’s name on them. I realized for the first time how many of my ancestors also lived in northern Cumberland.   The trail of deeds for Richard Ballou seemed to end around 1810.

Richard Ballou Deeds, Cumberland, R.I. Purchases in green, sales in blue, my direct ancestors in red

Richard Ballou Deeds, Cumberland, R.I. Purchases in green, sales in blue, my direct ancestors in red.  Will expand if clicked.

What I learned from the deeds:  at some point Richard may have had a second small house.  I wonder if Marcy lived there after the divorce in 1803.  I learned names of neighbors, to check on the 1838 map, in case any of them remained.


When I was at the Allen County Public Library recently, I was able to peruse, in book form, supplements 1 & 2 of the Adin Ballou book.  I had previously viewed these online, but having the book in hand made me pay a little more attention to a claim Supplement 1 made about Richard Ballou, in the “Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War” section, p. 179.

Ballou, R.  (Barlow, Richard) On a pay abstract of Dan’l Mowry’s 4th Co. Col Peck’s reg’t., on the alarm July and August 1780; Joined July 29; days in service 11; days billeted 8; also on same list, same Co., July 1781, dismissed.  List not dated. (note: dismissed ye 31st July 1780).

Ballou, R.  Private, Capt. Mowry’s Co., Col. Pecks reg’t; Alarm of July and Aug. 1780.

Ballou, Richard.  Private – Smithfield to Cumberland Rangers May 1776.

I had seen this reference a while ago but didn’t know what to think of it.  Sources were claimed but not given. Further research turned up nothing.  I can find nothing about the Cumberland Rangers.

Rhode Island Historical Society Library, Hope Street, Providence.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Rhode Island Historical Society Library, Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

So I went to the Rhode Island Historical Society and looked at the catalog of Rhode Island Revolutionary War Soldiers.  There was a card for Richard Ballou.  The librarian helped me understand what the card was saying:

2 records marked “MP” for “Military Papers.”  She looked that up in the Manuscript Finding Aid binders. I need Manuscript MSS 673  Subgroup 2.

  • Revolutionary War Papers Box 3 folder 88   List of Men, Aug 9, 1780, George Peck / Daniel Mowry
  • Revolutionary War Papers Box 3 folder 126   Company List, May, 1776, George Peck

It was too late in the day to submit a slip for the special collections retrieval and look at those two documents.  And I would like to purchase a camera pass on the day that I see them.  So I am feeling more confident about this possibility and can’t wait to see who else was serving with him.  After all of this research I have a familiarity with the entire community.

I knew the probate records in the Cumberland Town Hall would contain more information than the brief abstract I had seen, but I was surprised when they covered about 10 pages.  Here is what I learned from the probate:
  • I knew that Richard Ballou was subject to a guardianship in the last couple year of his life (“want of his discretion in the management of his estate is likely to bring himself and his family to want”). I had found that in newspaper advertisements. Columbia Tingley was the first guardian.  I never knew if the “David Aldrich” who was the second guardian was the brother of Richard’s ex son-in-law, Nathan Aldrich, or perhaps was someone else with the same name.  I now can see, from the 1838 map, where David Aldrich lived, and he was a close neighbor. And the probate records show his wife, Jemima, witnessing a signature. So it was that David.  It still surprises me.
  • At his death in 1824 Richard owned a farm “containing about 60 acres with the buildings thereon” one other small tract of land containing about 4 acres, total value of real estate $1540.  Total value $1652.
The house of a Ballou cousin, in Cumberland, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Famnily in America, 1888. p. 85.  I wonder if Richard and Lucy Ballou's house might have looked like this.

The house of a Ballou cousin, in Cumberland, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America, 1888. p. 85. I wonder if Richard and Lucy Ballou’s house might have looked like this.

  • Household property included:
    • Old case drawers, table, chairs, candle stand, milk pail, chest
    • Meat barrel, brass kettle, earthen milk pans
    • pewter basin, one gallon bottle, cider funnel
    • fat tub, churn, dry casks, earthen plates, 5 cider barrels, cheese tub, peck measure, tub, blanket
    • shovel and iron wedge, drawing knife, wash tub, old pails, trays, wooden bowls, pewter platter
    • pewter basin, lot of crockery, tin pans, tea pot, funnel, glass bottles, brass skimmer, tin skimmer
    • 6 spoons, large iron pot, spider, bake kettle, pan kettle,disk kettle, tea kettle, i pair And Irons
    • shovel and tongs, chopping knife, flat iron, tin lantern, earthen mug, large iron pot
    • large iron kettle, skillet, ax, looking glass, grindstone, crank, candle sticks, old knives and forks
    • Bed bedstead and cord, ditto, bedstead and cord
  • After his death, his personal property included:
    • Hat, “Fearnot”[?] Great Coat, old straight bodied coat, old waistcoat
    • pr satinnette pantaloons, pair velvet, old pair stockings, linen shirt, flannel shirt, pair shoes
    • Boots, three old tresses [?]
  • Equipment:
    • cow, hay
    • Ladder and hay poles, draft chain, grind stone frame and crank
    • wagon pins, narrow hoe, old sythe, lyme hogsheads, corn bucket
  • Financial:
    • note of hand against Willard Ballou; note against Samuel Aldrich
    • payout made to Thomas Barden as per note, $24.58
  • He left, in his will dated 1822, to “my well beloved wife Lucy Ballou the improvements, profits and income of all my land and buildings scituate and lying in Cumberland or elsewhere during her natural life”, also “all my moveable estate to be and remain for her use at her own disposal …”  “Item, I give and devise to my lawful heirs, after the decease of my said wife, all my lands and buildings… to be equally divided amongst them.”
  • The heirs are not listed.  I was looking for payments to be made, possibly to Marcy Ballou since I have no idea what happened to her after her divorce in 1803. Did not find that.
  • I am guessing that one or more of his nearby sons was doing most of the farm work on his property since his farm equipment seems to be very limited.
  • I can tell after further review that I only have part of the probate story; I need to know what happened to the land after wife Lucy’s death (date unknown).  I did look while there, but I need to look again.

Seeing the spot

Knowing all along that he lived in the northeastern corner of Cumberland, I studied Google maps carefully and compared that to the 1838 map.  I noticed, for the first time, that the Darling/Aldrich cemetery I have visited many times, on Burnt Swamp Road in Sheldonville, Wrentham, Massachusetts, was actually on the same road that ran through the area I was examining in Cumberland.  Burnt Swamp Road continued from the northeastern corner of Rhode Island into Sheldonville, Mass. and ended beside the house, with a plaque, built in 1826 by my ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich (first husband of Richard’s daughter Marcy Ballou).  IT WAS THE SAME STREET.

A farm sits at the corner of Burnt Swamp Road and Sumner Brown Road in Cumberland. Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

A farm sits at the corner of Burnt Swamp Road and Sumner Brown Road in Cumberland. Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

How I missed this, in years of thinking and looking around on this question, I have no idea.  I guess it’s easy, when crossing state lines, to imagine things are relatively far away and unconnected.  Hope I don’t make that mistake again. I’m from the smallest state in the union, and I should be used to crossing state lines every half hour.

Without really knowing the spot for Richard Ballou’s house, I drove up to look things over and get a picture in my mind.  I was surprised that Burnt Swamp Road is still remarkably rural, and there is a working farm at the corner with Sumner Brown Road.  I drove up from Cumberland to the cemetery in Sheldonville – it might have been a mile.

View of the Sheldonville Cemetery from the Road.  Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

View of the Sheldonville Cemetery from Burnt Swamp Road. Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

Books about the area

While at the Allen County Public Library I studied the bibliography of the “Founders and Patriots” book cited below.  I saw a reference to a book called North Cumberland, A History.  I searched for that.  Turns out this helpful little book was at the Rhode Island Historical Society, but I never noticed it before.  Written in 1975, North Cumberland, A History attempts to detail the landscape of each neighborhood in northern Cumberland.  It doesn’t mention Richard Ballou, of course, but armed with the hints I now have, it provided some answers by explaining about the Hathaway mills in the “Tingley District” section, page 9.  I would advise anyone trying to pin down old Cumberland neighborhoods to consult this book.

In conclusion

To get back to the 1838 map, my question remained, where did Richard Ballou live?

Clues found thus far:

  • From the Ballou book, 1888, “extreme northeasterly section of Cumberland” and “near what was formerly known as Hathaway Mills.”  That Hathaway mills reference really sent me chasing an early cotton or woolen mill, many of which began popping up in Rhode Island as early as 1805.  Turns out it was a grist mill and sawmill.
  • The deeds tell me that a boundary of the land he sold to Job Fuller in 1795 ran over “Indian Meadow Brook“.  I wonder if this is the same as “Indian Brook” which is on the 1900 map in the North Cumberland book, and on google maps.  Given the history of Cumberland that I have studied now, I think that “Burnt Swamp”, “Indian Meadow” and “Indian Brook” are roughly referring to the same place, where a swamp inhabited by Native Americans shortly after King Phillip’s War in 1675 was burned during dry weather.
  • The deeds also point to the names of neighbors Scott, Howard, Clark, Hathaway and Follett.
  • Mrs. Spragues’ notes state that son Arnold Ballou married Abigail Trask and lived near his birthplace all his life.  His home, after his death, became known as the “Nabby Ballou” place.  There is a “Wd N. Ballou” house on the 1838 map.
  • The Cumberland record of the children’s births is solid evidence for his children’s names and helps me know that only his son Arnold (his widow, actually) appears nearby on the 1838 map.
  • The census of 1810 shows that neighbors are Job Hathaway, Arnold Ballou, John Darling, and Job Fuller.  Of those, the spots for Arnold Ballou’s widow and the Hathaway mills are evident on the 1838 map.
  • The probate records are clear on the fact that a 60 acre piece of property was left after Richard Ballou’s death – probably more prior to the sales to his son Arnold Ballou.
  • At one point he divided an “Indian Meadow” which he owned jointly with 2 others into 3 separate pieces.

I have arrived at a conclusion, and look forward to checking out the area and continuing to learn more about Richard Ballou’s life.

Given the Widow of Arnold Ballou's location, and the Hathaway Mills location, I assume Richard owned land within the circle, and his house must have been along one of the roads on either side.  This is the very northeastern corner of Rhode Island.

This is the northeastern corner of Rhode Island, bordered by Massachusetts on both sides. Burnt Swamp Road is at the corner running north/south.

Given the widow of Arnold Ballou’s location, and the Hathaway mills location (both marked with arrows), I assume Richard owned land within the blue circle, and his house must have been along one of the roads on either side.


Ballou, Adin.  An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America.  Providence, R.I.: Press of E.L. Freeman, 1888.

- [supp. 1] The Ballous in America, an Addendum, comp. and ed. by Historical Records Survey, Div. of Women’s and Professional Projects, WPA.  Boston: Ballou Family Association, 1937.

- [supp 2]  The Ballous in America, an Addendum, comp. and ed. by Myrtle M. Jillson.  Woonsocket, R.I.: The Ballou Family Association, 1942.

Cumberland Probate Records, Guardianship and Estate of Richard Ballou,  v. 13 (1821-1823) p. 305, 334-336, v. 14 (1823-1826) p. 19, 124-127, 135, 319, 337, v. 15 (1826-1829) p. 1, 13

Chamberlain, Mildred M. The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985.

Newell, Nelson. Map of the Town of Cumberland, R.I.  Boston: Published by Aaron White Jr, 1838.

Ray, Judith Jencks. Founders and Patriots of the Town of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1990.

Rhode Island Genealogical Register vol. 16 Index of Wills 1636-1850, Nellie M.C. Beman, editor.  East Princeton, Mass: R.I. Families Association, 1992.  Also. vol. 5, issue 1, Alden G. Beaman, ed., 1982.

Rhode Island Roots, journal of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society. “A List of the Polls and estates real and personal of the Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Town of Smithfield …” appeared serially in the following issues:  March 1995 p. 17, June 1995 p. 57, Sept 1995 p. 90, March 1996 p. 25, June 1996 p. 54, Dec 1996 p. 120, March 1997 p. 21.

Richardson, Erastus. History of Woonsocket.  Woonsocket:  S.S. Foss, 1876.

Simpson, Robert V.  North Cumberland, A History by Robert V. Simpson.  Privately printed, 1975.

Sprague, Mrs. Abigail.  Unpublished notes, History of Cumberland.  c 1890-1906.  Rhode Island Historical Society MSS 1023.    Box 1, folder 43: Hathaway Mills neighborhood.   Box 2, folder 32: Aldrich family.   Box 2, folder 40:  Ballou.

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I owe the idea for this post to the excellent genealogy speaker Thomas McEntee of High Definition Genealogy.  I heard Thomas speak through the live feed from the Southern California Genealogy Society‘s Jamboree this past weekend.  Thomas was addressing online privacy in his talk “Staying Safe Online.”  Interspersed with some  advice about online safety and privacy, he talked about our ancestors’ privacy in the U.S.  More privacy, or less?  One example he gave of a lack of privacy was the custom of printing warnings in the local paper, often from a husband, informing the town that he would no longer pay any debts of his spouse.  Thomas mentioned that sometimes, the spouse printed a response in an ad of her own, treating us to an early 19th century version of The Jerry Springer Show.  I am grateful to Thomas for that tip, as well as for all the work he does for the GeneaBloggers.

The 1802 version of the Jerry Springer Show

Yes, my ancestors participated in this highly un-private activity in 1802.  I found it in the same issue where I had found the husband’s ad a couple of years ago.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the Providence Gazette May 8, 1802 issue.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the Providence Gazette May 8, 1802 issue.

My ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich paid for the following ad in the Providence Gazette on May 8 and May 15, 1802 (1):

WHEREAS, Marcy, wife of me the subscriber, hath separated herself from me, and at sundry Times has unnecessarily run me into 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.


Cumberland, May 5, 1802.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.

My ggggg-grandmother Marcy Aldrich placed an ad in the May 8 and May 15, 1802 issues of the Providence Gazette (2):

My unworthy Husband, NATHAN ALDRICH, having thought proper to stigmatize my Character in a public Paper, a brief Reply seems necessary.  I was reduced to the hard Necessity of making my Escape from the most brutal Treatment; he had threatened my Life, and actually kicked me, and bruised me with his Fist.  Add to this that he left my Bed one year previous to my quitting his Cottage, and neglected to provide for me the common Necessaries of Life.


Cumberland, May 14, 1802.

Since I have never found any trace of Marcy after her 1803 divorce, this was very interesting.  She was still in Cumberland after leaving him; she may have been at her father’s house.  And I notice that after the separation she seems to be calling herself by her maiden name, Ballou.  In fact, this is now the best source I have for her maiden name, the evidence for which I had painstakingly pieced together indirectly.

Prov Gazzette Masthead

Access Rhode Island newspapers

  • While spotty, there is a growing collection of Rhode Island newspapers online at the paid site, GenealogyBank.com.  You can link to the page of Rhode Island newspaper titles and years here.  Indexing is automated through OCR, which works if the type is clear and recognizable, and not well at all if the image is blurry, wrinkled, or faded.  I never have found Marcy’s note in any index; I only found it by going page by page.
  • If you are a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, you have access to two compilations of early newspapers, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers and Early American Newspapers, Series I 1690-1876These can be accessed from the “External Databases” page after logging in at the NEHGS website.
  • Rhode Island papers on the paid site NewspaperArchive are limited to Newport.  Likewise, Ancestry.com has very limited Rhode Island newspaper offerings.  Library of Congress’ free Chronicling America site has no digitized Rhode Island content, but does offer a list of 750 Rhode Island newspapers with some holdings information in their Directory of Newspapers (drill down to find libraries where the paper might be held).
  • If you are in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Historical Society has a thorough microfilm collection of surviving Rhode Island newspapers.  However, indexing is lacking, and the few indices I’ve found there tend to cover important persons and stories only.  I use the microfilm to look up specific dates only.
  • If you know the name of a newspaper you are interested in, you can check out the holdings of the free Google News Archives.  The site works adequately for paging through issues of papers but I haven’t had much luck with searching there.  I should add that while my pictures, here, are from Google News, I first found the article using the indexing at GenealogyBank.  But GenealogyBank does not allow their images to be reproduced.

One more newspaper article about Nathan Aldrich

One Massachusetts article from The Liberator (found on 19th Century U.S. Newspapers) redeems Nathan Aldrich a bit in my eyes (3).  The West Wrentham Anti-Slavery Society met right in Sheldonville, where he lived, and in September, 1839, some members attended a meeting of the county-wide society, the Norfolk County Anti-Slavery Society, which happened to be held in Wrentham.  There was a controversial and extremely close vote about the right of the female members to vote during the meeting.  The votes of each member present were recorded in the newspaper, which is why Nathan’s name was mentioned.  He voted against the right of the female members to vote at meetings.  I find no other Nathan Aldriches in the county during this period; I think it is him.  Of course, he loses points for voting against the rights of the women members.

Sheldonville, Massachusetts Post Office at a much later date

Sheldonville, Massachusetts Store and Post Office at a much later date

Nathan’s second wife Chloe died in middle age, a fact which is carefully recorded by Nathan in his family bible.  He then married a neighbor, Lois Grant, cousin of Chloe.  Nathan is buried at the Sheldonville Cemetery between Chloe and Lois.  I always assumed that wouldn’t have gone that way if he was quite the person described in the advertisement, above.  I would chalk it up more to he and Marcy not being suited to each other.  If I could ever learn more about Marcy, it might reveal more about the whole sad situation.

In conclusion

I wonder, based on my own research, if unhappy marriages leave more clues behind than happy marriages.  But for sure, newspapers can reveal snippets of the lives of our ancestors.  If you have advice about finding Rhode Island newspapers, please leave it in the comments.


  1. “Whereas, Marcy” (advertisment), Providence Gazette (Providence, RI), 08 May 1802, online archive at Genealogy Bank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 10 Apr 2011), page 4.
  2. “My unworthy Husband” (advertisment), Providence Gazette (Providence, RI), 15 May 1802, online archive at Genealogy Bank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 8 Jun 2013), page 3.
  3. “Norfolk County Anti-Slavery Society,” The Liberator, (Boston, MA) [Friday], [September 20, 1839]; online archive at 19th Century U.S. Newspapers (Article GT3005844982) (accessed through http://www.americanancestors.org/external-databases/ : accessed 9 Jun 2013), pg. 150; Issue 38; col B

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This was my first visit to the large Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, that contains microfilmed records from around the world as well as many genealogy books and other resources.

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City


I had prepared beforehand, in Evernote, a list of microfilms and books to explore. These were sortable by the “tags” which allowed me to choose records for one person or family at a time. I also added a tag “Important” in case I had to make choices.

I had three days in the library. I knew as the trip grew closer that I would concentrate on several real questions. I printed those notes and put them in a paper binder – sometimes it’s easier to rely on paper when you will need to walk around the library or be at a microfilm reader. I did access Evernote on my iphone but ended up NOT bringing the laptop to the library. Next time, everything needs to be on a clipboard or ipad, for portability. The library doesn’t want you leaving valuables around, which is understandable.

Research in the library

I like the kind of microfilm reader that lets you download each page to your own flash drive. At home, this can be enlarged and manipulated better than printed paper or photos. So I started at a regular reader, but planned to utilize the computer-reader whenever I found something. Because the library was unusually quiet during my stay, I managed to use the computer microfilm reader most of the time.


ScanPro 1000

These are the specific problems I decided to explore, and how it went.

Parents of Daniel Lamphere (died 1808), father of Russell
There are some obscure Lamphere records I haven’t seen before:
  • Lanphere/Lanphear family, ca. 1770-1920 Film 3005 Item 13
  • The Lanphere and related families genealogy by Edward Everett Lanphere, Book 929.273 L288L
  • The Bates family in America by Edward E. Lanphere Fiche 6046981
  • Record of the Lanphere family of Rhode Island, Manuscript (pedigree chart) Ped Chart no. 251
  • Probate records index, 1798-1990 [Westerly, Rhode Island] 16 mm film 1892412 & 3
  • Westerly Land Evidence records, 1661-1903
  • Bible records from Connecticut, index cards, He-Ly, film 2879

What I learned: I like to review lesser-known work on the Lampheres. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much work that would be helpful to me at all. One amusing moment was when I sought out the “Pedigree Chart” files, looking for chart number 251 on the Lampheres of Rhode Island.

Pedigree Charts

Pedigree Charts

While there were some intriguing charts in there, the Lamphere chart was, I quickly recognized, pages from Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.

Lanphere chart6

The Lamphere Chart

First cha-ching moment: The Westerly deeds were far more helpful. Prior to his death, Daniel Lamphere mortgaged his property to his son Russell, my gggg-granfather. Russell never lived on the property, but he was heavily involved in the subsequent dealings. It took the family about 10 legal transactions, over the next 10 years, to finally dispose of the property. Each transaction was more helpful than the last; listing all heirs by name, mentioning brothers, fathers, wives, widows, current locations, and neighbors. Tantalizingly, some of the neighbors were named “Tefft” which is the surname sometimes ascribed to Daniel’s wife Nancy. I even found names of some Lamphere connections that blog readers have mentioned to me. I’m getting back to them.

These 35 pages of Westerly Deeds will need some careful analysis to determine the facts, but I am hoping those facts will be very helpful. I should probably mention that I had travelled to Westerly Town Hall previously to look at these, but not all volumes were available that day. The nice thing about microfilm is that ALL volumes should have been microfilmed, and be available.

Darling/Aldrich property in Wrentham, Massachusetts

  • Norfolk County Probate films for guardianship and probate
  • Probate records, 1746-1916 [Cumberland, Rhode Island]

What I learned: I found the probate records for Asa Aldrich and I finally realized that his controversial will had produced legal records in TWO states, since Cumberland, Rhode Island and western Wrentham, Massachusetts are adjacent to each other and family members lived on each side of the border. So I saved all those records. I also found guardianship and probate records for Elias Darling, grandfather of Ellis Aldrich Darling, which answered some questions about his life.

The parents of Lucy Arnold

  • Smithfield, Rhode Island Deeds 1731-1874 Grantor index film 959536, Grantee index film 959543
  • Lincoln Probate records, 1733-1917 (Lincoln, Rhode Island) Thomas Arnold d. Aug, 1817 film 959529
  • Microfilm of records in James Arnold’s family notes – town notes collection at the Knight Memorial Library, Providence, Rhode Island film 1839290 Item 4

What I learned: I have a continuing question in my mind about why the famed Rhode Island genealogist, James Arnold, didn’t leave a volume behind about the Arnolds. I once saw an ad that claimed he was researching such a work. I knew some of his papers are housed in the archives at a local Providence library branch. I was happy with the chance to easily see some of them on microfilm, and they were interesting, but didn’t relate to the Arnolds. Oh well.

The Arnold book [Benson, Richard H. The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island. Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009] has helped me tentatively identify Lucy Arnold. I would like to learn as much as possible to help me confirm that. Unfortunately, I still have not found a probate record for her father. But in the many, many deeds I found for her father, there is a great deal of information, still to be completely analyzed.

Second cha-ching moment: One set of clues involves the identity of Lucy’s mother, who is possibly a Smith. I found several deeds relating to a certain Smith couple (a physician and his wife) and the last one, interestingly, says that the woman is now a widow, old and inform, and is transacting some kind of real estate deal with Thomas Arnold. I’m hoping that deed will help me find further clues that actually prove who Thomas’ wife, Rachel, is. It would be nice to prove something that wasn’t known in the NEHGS publication! I am also hoping that something about these deeds helps me determine my more immediate question about proving a link between Lucy and these parents that goes beyond name and town.

Thomas Arnold

Thomas Arnold

Marriage of Mercy Ballou/Nathan Aldrich and birth of her daughter Nancy Ann Aldrich

  • Vital records, 1734-1858 [Cumberland, Rhode Island] film 955486
  • Marriages, v. 1-3 (1746-1895) film 955487
  • his and her fathers’ property, Plan of the Town of Cumberland (Map) film 955497
  • Richard Ballou will, Cumberland Probate records, 1746-1916 Probate records Vol. 6-10 1784-1815 Film 955491

What I learned: The abstract of Richard Ballou’s will, that I’ve seen, was correct. He does not name his heirs by name, just groups them as “my heirs.” So that gave me no clues about the later life of my ggggg-grandmother Mercy Ballou. There was nothing in here that helped, and the map was badly photographed, so was no better than my own imperfect photos of an old Cumberland property map I made at the Rhode Island Historical Society.

My reaction overall

  • I should really be using these films more, through rental at my local Family History Center (now called FamilySearch Centers). I copied a number of index pages for my family names to help me order microfilm in the future, if needed.
  • They have a crazy amount of microfilm there.

    One of many many aisles of microfilm

    One of many many aisles of microfilm

  • I should keep more careful track of books and microfilms as they are released on the web at FamilySearch.org.
  • As I kept seeing so many people sitting for hours at the computers, I wondered at so many going to the trouble to visit just to use free access to various genealogy web sites. Then I tried, on a whim, looking for records of my gg-grandmother Catherine Young, born in Surrey, England. An 1841 British Census record came up, from a site I have never paid for, and then I really got it. It’s nice not having your search limited by subscriptions. No one wants to subscribe to everything.
  • All the records I found need to be carefully abstracted and analyzed. For instance, I need to eliminate deeds that refer to others with the same name.
  • Three days at the FHL is worth several months of what I’m doing at home. As more materials are moved to the web, that is bound to change.

Thanks to Randy Seaver for making me aware of the Family History At A Glance – Family History Library Research booklet, which was helpful. I would also suggest people refer to the FHL website to plan a visit.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/01/09/a-visit-to-the-family-history-library/

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The question:  Can I find a divorce record for my ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich and his first wife, Marcy Ballou, around 1805?

What I knew that led me to think they were married and divorced:

  • Nathan added Marcy to his family bible, which is located at the NEHGS, and later crossed her out.
  • They had one daughter that I know of, my gggg-grandmother Nancy Ann (Aldrich) Darling.  Late in life, Nathan Aldrich and his third wife, Lois, were living with Nancy’s son Ellis and his family.
  • In 1802, Nathan published an advertisement in the Providence Patriot disowning Marcy
  • By 1809, Nathan and his second wife, Chloe, sold a piece of property to Marcy’s father Richard Ballou in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and from then on, lived in Wrentham, Mass.

What I was NOT finding was any evidence of Marcy’s death. I wondered how that first marriage ended.

In Rhode Island at that time, divorces occurred in the Supreme Court.  Records for the Supreme Court are stored at the Rhode Island Judicial Archives.  I wrote to the Archives last fall requesting that the file be looked up.  The answer came back that it could not be found.

More recently I decided to go in person, not knowing how much searching, if any, I would be allowed to do.  The Judicial Archives are located at 5 Hill Street, Pawtucket, R.I.  There is free parking across the street.

You enter and go up to the second floor, where you sign in.

When I explained that I was looking for historical records, staff member Andrew Smith was called to assist me.

I thanked Andrew for trying to help me via email a while back, and said that I was here with the same question.  We talked about different forms of the names, and the time and place for the possible divorce.  He checked the index again, no luck.  He was willing to bring me the handwritten volumes summarizing  ALL Supreme Court cases, in chronological order, from the period we were talking about.

I sat in a research room containing an old conference table which had probably graced a courtroom 75 or 100 years ago. I settled in to go, page by page, through the two volumes he brought me, which ran from approximately 1802-1807.

A true Rhode Island story

The first thing I noticed, as I paged through, was the set of judges on the R.I. Supreme Court at that time, which was repeated at the beginning of each “session” entry.

Peleg Arnold, Chief Justice

This is why taking the time to page through, record by record, can be so valuable.  If my theory about Marcy Ballou’s mother, Lucy Arnold, is correct, then Marcy was actually the great-niece of Chief Justice Peleg Arnold.  This is getting to be SO Rhode Island.

Less than halfway through the first book, I got lucky.  I FOUND THE DIVORCE.  Here it is:

[p. 220] “M. Aldrich”   Be it Remembered that at the present Term of this Court Marcy Aldrich wife of Nathan Aldrich of Cumberland in said County prefered her petition, praying for reasons therein stated, that a decree of divorce may be passed in her [p.221] favor dissolving the bond of matrimony now subsisting between her and her said husband and for alimony – after hearing the same. It is ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Court here, that the prayer thereof be granted.

Of course I noticed the mention of a “petition” and “for reasons therein stated”.  What was in the book was just a summary.  The real divorce petition should have been stored separately.  Unfortunately, that couldn’t be found.  Andrew did find one for a “Mary Ballou” which he showed me, but it wasn’t my case.

another divorce petition

Inside that petition:

Inside the other petition

You can see that if the Marcy Ballou/Nathan Aldrich petition could be found, it would likely contain 6 or 7 sheets of information about the marriage.  Andrew promised to try again to find it, but that has not been successful.

I did notice in the summary record that she received alimony.  After his newspaper ad refusing to pay any further debts of hers, I can only smile and perhaps, in a very not-based-on-evidence kind of way, assume this is some further proof that Chief Justice Arnold was her uncle.  His name appeared on the session she was involved in, but whether he recused himself, I have no way of knowing right now.

However, I now know that they actually divorced in 1803.  Nathan and his second wife moved a bit farther up the road into Massachusetts and had several more children.  Marcy’s parents were in Cumberland, so I suspect she stayed there, however briefly.  Later, there is evidence that Nancy Ann lived with her father.  Did Marcy die?  Remarry and move away?  Become debilitated somehow?

The R.I. Judicial Archives

I mentioned to Andrew that I was going to write about my visit in my blog.  He said it was ok to mention him.  If any genealogists want to access historical records from the archives, they can contact him directly:

Andrew Smith, Judicial Records Center, absmith  at  courts  dot  ri  dot  gov.

The Judicial Records Center web site gives more information about record holdings and making requests, but Andrew suggests you email him directly to save some time.  I would suggest anyone traveling to the center might want to email in advance to check on availability of records, and open hours.

The post you are reading is located here: http://wp.me/p1JmJS-zE

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Since post one and post two on Lucy Arnold, I have been unable to pursue most of the on-site research I need to do, but I have pursued some research on a number of collateral lines that I was able to do from home.

The problems:

Lucy Arnold married Richard5 (John4, John3, John 2, Maturin) Ballou in Smithfield, Rhode Island around 1777 and they became the parents of nine children, of which my ancestor, Mercy Ballou, is the oldest, born in 1778.  I am trying to determine:

  • whether Lucy Arnold is the daughter of Thomas5 (Thomas4, Richard3, Richard2, Thomas1) and Rachel.
  • the likely family of Thomas’ wife, Rachel (possibly Smith).
Here is what I learned:
  • According to Benson’s Arnold book (see below), a Greene manuscript (see below) is his source that Rachel was a Smith.  Another possible clue that I noticed is Benson’s reference on page 242 that

“Thomas [Arnold] purchased 4 acres of land from Thomas Smith on 20 June 1767″ (p. 242).

  • Looking around, I find a Smithfield land owner named Thomas4 (Thomas3, Edward2, Christopher1) Smith, (1697-1777), who was the son of Thomas and Phebe (Arnold) Smith.  Thomas Smith would be Thomas Arnold’s second cousin once removed.  Thomas Smith was a Quaker who married twice and inherited Smithfield property from his father, and his birth in 1697 is noted in Benson’s Arnold book.  It’s doubtful he is Rachel’s father because I think this would have been caught by now, but it would be good to pin down exactly who the seller “Thomas Smith” was.
  • Like most early Rhode Island residents, the Arnolds were opposed to the various New England authoritarian churches.  Some of the Smithfield Arnolds were Quakers, and were instrumental in establishing a Meeting in Smithfield.
  • My branch of the Thomas Arnold family were driven out of Massachusetts after they became Baptists.  They settled in Providence and later Smithfield, Rhode Island.
  • The Ballous were active in the Six Principle Baptist Church in Cumberland.

    Elder Ballou Meeting House, Cumberland, R.I.

  • In line after line of the ancestors of these Ballou, Arnold, and Aldrich families, who all ended up in Smithfield/Cumberland/Wrentham, I notice that many branches came from nearby Mendon, Mass.  Other branches were among the original founders of Providence. In terms of narrowing down the Smiths, this means that Rachel Smith could possibly have been descended from a Mendon family of Smiths, as well as several early Providence Smith families. I suspect that if my current lead about the land transaction is a dead end, it may take me a long time to prove anything about her.
  • The Ballou book (see below) has become more and more valuable as I attempt to place these people in a historical context.  For the first time, I realized that the discrepancies I see about Cumberland, R.I. and Wrentham, Massachusetts are because it was the same place.  I knew that “Attleboro Gore” was a Massachusetts settlement that transferred to Cumberland, R.I. around 1745; what I didn’t realize was that the Cumberland section my ancestors lived in WAS Attleboro Gore.  This will help me to further investigate land records.
  • Comparing family connections among the Thomas Arnold (1733 – ) and Richard Ballou families has resulted in lots of distant connections, none of which seem significant.  I believe Richard Ballou acquired his property through his own family (NOT from his wife’s father), but I need to look at each of his deeds.

Next steps:

  • Find old maps of the households in Attleboro Gore/Cumberland.
  • Pursue Cumberland deeds and also Smithfield deeds (which may be in Central Falls) for Thomas Arnold and Richard Ballou’s activities (already have one for Richard Ballou)

and two steps from the last post that have had to wait:

  • Check out Union Village in person, and also Union Cemetery
  • Research John and Mary Smith


  • 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.
  • Benson, Richard H.  The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island.  Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009.
  • Greene, Welcome Arnold. “Notes of Genealogy of the Arnold Family.”  Unpublished typescript based on a manuscript complied starting in the 1840’s. 1914. Knight Memorial Library, Providence. [photocopy accessed at the NEHGS Manuscript Collection].
  • Holman, Winifred Lovering. “Hope Allen and Granddaughter Deborah (Wager) Henchman.”  New England Historic Genealogical Register 102 (July 1948): 177-191 (for my Boyce/Allen/Clifford lines)
  • Snow, Nora Emma. The Snow-Estes Ancestry. 2 volumes.  Hillburn, N.Y., privately printed, 1939.[full text was accessed on Ancestry.com]
  • Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700.  3 volumes. Boston, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.

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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.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society was founded in Boston in 1845

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:

  1. Mercy Ballou — mother of Anna
  2. Chloe Crowninshield — mother of the other children
  3. Lois Grant

Nathan is buried between his second and third wives in Wrentham, Mass.

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:

Wife #1 Mercy is blacked out

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.”

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