When I was newer to genealogy, I was surprised to find that in my Parmenter lines, there was a lot of intermarriage. When you go back into the 1600’s and 1700’s, it’s not at all unusual to find what genealogists call “pedigree collapse.” Normally, the number of individuals in the pedigree chart for any given person would be two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. When cousins, second cousins, or even fifth cousins marry, it shrinks the number of ancestors the children would have had – you could think of it as collapsing some segments. In the history of the world, there has been plenty of this going on. There still is, apparently, if Wikipedia is to be believed.
The medical effects of this have to do with the ability, in this environment, for recessive genetic traits to match and effect the next generation. Even if the children are healthy, succeeding generations could be impacted.
My gggg-grandparents, Buckley Parmenter and Persis Hunt, were first cousins. My grandmother is related to them in the following way:
With the Parmenters, this practice of marrying cousins went on for centuries. Here is what happened, in my line:
A look at the chart barely tells the story. Abigail Hayden and Elinor Hayden were sisters. Joshua Parmenter and Persis Parmenter, who appear twice, were (gulp) cousins once removed – she was his cousin’s daughter. As I uncovered all this originally, mostly from the compiled Parmenter book (Descendants of Deacon John Parmenter, published by Pioneering Parmenters of America Editorial Board, 2009) I quickly turned away and started researching other lines. So all of my information needs further verification.
I was so taken aback by this that I didn’t learn the story of Buckley Parmenter and the Wayside Inn for several years. And in many other ways, stopping the research preventing me from finding the real story. Buckley and Persis had a son who was blind, and yet, he made a living as a musician, and married twice. None of the children married cousins, although two of the daughters married two brothers by the name of Darling. Buckley worked his whole life at Howe’s Tavern, and according to one census record, Persis worked there too, at least after the children were grown. I like to think of them working together, he fetching horses, shoveling snow, serving pints of cider, and she, making beds and waiting on tables. When the owner died, Buckley and Persis moved in with their daughter, in Wrentham, Mass., and Persis died within a year or two. From her death record (that mentions “paralysis, 2 years”), I have an idea that concern for Persis, and a medical condition that required extensive care from her family, prompted Buckley to leave the neighborhood of the Parmenters and go where two of the daughters were now living. Buckley and Persis are buried with modest markers – which seem to have toppled and sunk into the ground long ago – at the cemetery behind the daughter’s house in Wrentham. This just sounds, to me, like a couple that was genuinely close.
The question is, why was I so embarrassed by this, and sort of horrified? Perhaps the family wanted to maintain their property, perhaps they found it more comfortable to marry someone so familiar, or perhaps they were unusually isolated in Sudbury for some reason. It’s a good example of taking my own current ideas and life experience and expecting them to be valid in what was, essentially, a completely different culture.
A visit to Framingham
Recently, with a genealogy friend, fellow blogger Midge Frazel of Granite in My Blood, I went once again to Sudbury, looking at some materials at the Sudbury Library, and exploring the part of the Parmenter tree that I share with Midge’s husband. At Midge’s suggestion we explored “Parmenter Road” which lies just south of Howe’s Tavern, in fact, over the border in Framingham. Midge’s blog posts trace the story of finding a house in her husband’s Parmenter line.
There are lots of clues out there about my branch of the Parmenters:
- they owned an inn themselves early on
- they must have lived near Howe’s Tavern
- there was a property in Framingham that passed from George Parmenter, to Amos, to Joshua (Buckley’s grandfather).
I would like to see if I can substantiate any of that. Midge and I have some records to seek on the related Hayden and Brown lines, and I expect deeds and other research will tell me more about where the Parmenters lived, and what they did with their lives. Now, I’m on it.
I can’t be the only genealogist that has encountered this problem. In the two hundred years since Buckley and Persis married, no descendants in my line have married cousins again. It is what it is. Midge tells me the name is pronounced “Parmitter” so I am going to adapt to that, too, and join the family.
The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2013/10/20/pedigree-collapse-and-then-some