Archive for the ‘Aldrich’ Category

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Sheldonville, a village in Wrentham, Massachusetts where my 5x-great grandfather Nathan Aldrich built several houses, including the one where mom’s great grandfather, Addison Darling, was born.  Sheldonville is just up the road from northern Cumberland, Rhode Island.

I had met genealogist Pat Hubbell at a talk I gave at the Portsmouth Free Library and as we chatted afterwards about a brick wall problem she was having, somehow the conversation veered off to Wrentham.  I told her about how my 5x great grandfather Nathan Aldrich had built some houses there, and that I once found a small book in a library detailing the houses, but I couldn’t seem to get a copy.  Oh, she said, that’s my brother’s book.  I’ll send you one.  This is why it’s so great to get out and meet the other genealogists.  They always know stuff!

One of the houses on West Street built by Nathan and his father, Asa Aldrich.

And so she did send me the booklet, and over the coming months planned a Sheldonville day for me and another genealogist friend, Rachel Peirce, who also has a connection to Sheldonville.  Pat’s friend Rachel Garcia lives in the heart of Sheldonville and welcomed us to her home, treating us to a lovely lunch at her fascinating and relatively untouched historic house.  Pat somehow got us invited to tour the Sheldonville Baptist Church, which I knew my ancestors belonged to in the nineteenth century.  The minister and his wife could not have been nicer and we had a terrific chat with them.  And one or two local friends also joined us along the way.

The house with the Nathan Aldrich plaque at the corner of West and Burnt Swamp.

It’s surprising how much my impressions of Sheldonville changed over the course of the visit.  What was once a rural farming village, gradually dotted in the 19th century with a few straw hat factories and boat shops, is now in the direct path of significant commuter and shopping traffic.  To travel the main street of Sheldonville, West Street, is to zip quickly down a road with little opportunity to pull over or stop.  When you walk the neighborhood, you realize that there really is a neighborhood and village there, winding around a couple of surrounding streets.  You begin to get a sense of how the landscape must have felt many years ago. Even the little cemetery behind Nathan Aldrich’s house, filled with names I recognize, is much the same as it ever was.  The houses are old, and the businesses are gone, but you can imagine the farm fields, dirt roads, horses and carts, shops, and a sort of social hierarchy ranging from the inhabitants of the former mill rooming house all the way to the families in the grand and stately old homes. My family falls in the middle of that; struggling farmers in the neighborhood as the nineteenth century moved along, gradually transitioning into working folks.

Some shorn sheep seen along our walk, reminding us of Sheldonville’s rural past.  There’s a slight possibility these are not sheep.  I’m not really a farm animal expert.

I got a better look at the various plaques on the houses, and with help from Pat and Rachel and A Guide to Historic Wrentham, Massachusetts, pinned down the houses built by my 5x great grandfather, Nathan Aldrich.  I realize, now, that these were all family houses, so perhaps he really was not a house builder so much as a person that was motivated to improve his property and make a better life for his family.  His known houses are:

  • 965 West Street
  • 995 West Street
  • 63 Burnt Swamp Road
  • 93 Burnt Swamp Road

One of the houses built by Nathan Aldrich, for his son in law Luman Follett, who also developed a soap factory on the property. Nathan had a simple but effective style; a slightly boxy “Cape Cod” house.

Church records

There was a rare opportunity to see some Baptist church records that day.

Sheldonville Baptist Church Pastor Doug Pettit with his wife, Kate, and one of their sons

Some older church materials had been transferred to index cards at some point.  To save time, I photographed a number of cards for reference later. When I read through the cards, I was surprised to discover that another ancestor, my 7x-great grandfather Abner Haskell (1721-1779), was a founder of the church in 1769.  Abner was Nathan Aldrich’s grandfather.

Older transcribed church records from Sheldonville Baptist Church

[From one card:] Baptist Church of Cumberland and Wrentham

Before 1769: Some people of Baptist persuasion departed from the Congregational Church long before any Baptist Church was founded.  Many attempts were made to start such a work in West Wrentham but to no avail. Since only some were immersed, the group became deadlocked over the issue of open communion.  However, on Sept. 29, 1769 in the home of Nathaniel Robinson, 5 Baptist gentlemen signed a covenant which was the “Baptist Church of Cumberland and Wrentham.[“] Those signing the covenant were Ibrook [surely a mis-transcription of Israel?] Whipple, Nathaniel Robinson, Stephen Ballow, Abner Haskel (all of Cumberland) and Ebenezer Guild of Wrentham.   — (Rec. of Baptist Ch. and Soc. of Wrentham)

This card shows an early meeting of the founders in Abner Haskell’s home.

In 1811, Nathan Aldrich purchased pew #25 for $45.  He was divorced by that time from my 5-great grandmother Marcy Ballou, and newly married to Chloe Crowninshield.  I imagine he and Chloe enjoyed sitting in their pew each Sunday. Nathan sometimes served as the treasurer of the Society. By 1838, the church split into two due to doctrinal differences and a new church was built; Nathan subscribed $100.  Occasionally, a William Aldrich served as Sexton in the 1840’s; I believe he could be Nathan’s son (that I have never really traced) because I have seen some deeds between him and Nathan around this era.

Our little group at the church, complete with small dog (Allie). Rachel Peirce, our hostess Rachel Garcia and her friend Kathy Kelety, me in back, Pat Hubbell.

I enjoyed my day in Sheldonville immensely, and my chance to explore local history with local people.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2017/08/4/visiting-sheldonville/

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The Aldrich Manuscript

I occasionally get questions from those researching their northern Rhode Island Aldrich ancestors.  George Aldrich was an early settler of nearby Mendon, Massachusetts. My Aldrich ancestors moved down into Sheldonville, Massachusetts and northern Cumberland, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center

Recently I visited the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society.  I wanted to look at some books and journals I had saved some notes about.  Nothing much came of that.

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

The Rhode Island Historical Society library on Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

But I overheard a conversation about photography and realized that they had eased up on their photography rules.  So that was good news.  I decided to photograph some pages of the Aldrich manuscripts that I had used in the past. I had to use a paper slip in each photo crediting the RIHS, and use the photos only for my own use.  The book is still under copyright but that would have been the case no matter what.  It’s a little hard to describe these books so I’m glad to have a chance to write down some details here.

Newly renamed the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, the library has a lot to offer in the way of unique manuscripts and special Rhode Island collections.

Newly renamed the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, the library has a lot to offer in the way of unique manuscripts, genealogy books and special Rhode Island collections. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Aldrich Family Genealogy

The Aldrich Family Genealogy – Descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA, compiled by Ralph Ernest Aldrich (1902-1984) and his wife Pearl Lillian (Marquis) Aldrich was written over a period of several decades.  The manuscript has an unusual genealogical format which might be hard to grasp right off.

But these are the best books I’ve found on the Aldriches.  They are the only books I can recommend.  As always, I do my own research to prove relationships, but you can definitely get some clues and sources from these books.  One thing that impresses me in particular is that they correctly report that my ancestor Nathan Aldrich’s first wife, Marcy, had only one child, Anna “Nancy” – not two as is often stated elsewhere.

Here is my line of descent from my 10th great grandfather George Aldrich to my grandmother Edna May Darling:

  • George Aldrich (1605 – 1683)
  • Jacob Aldrich (1652 – 1695)
  • David Aldrich (1685 – 1771)
  • Jonathan Aldrich (1721 – 1800)
  • Asa Aldrich (1744 – 1825)
  • Nathan Aldrich (1773 – 1862)
  • 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)

Here are some details from the RIHS card catalog about the manuscript – in 18 bound volumes:

Title: The Aldrich family genealogy : descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA /
Author/Creator: Aldrich, Ralph Ernest, 1902-1984.
Call number: Reading Room CS71 .A374 1998
Physical Description: 12 parts in 18 v. ; 28 cm.
Notes: “National Aldrich Association.”
Parts organized A – K. Alphabetical within each part by given name.

  • Pt. A. George —
  • Pt. B. Joseph(2) —
  • Pt. C. John(2) —
  • Pt. D. Peter(2) —
  • Pt. E. Jacob(2) —
  • Pts. F, G, H. Others —
  • Pt. I. Families in England —
  • Pt. J. Origin of the name —
  • Pt. K. Arms, coats, shields.
    Indexes: parts B, C, D and E.

The set is divided based on the children of George Aldrich – his daughters are quickly tracked for one generation in volume one, then each of his sons Joseph, John, Peter, Jacob are covered for several generations – sometimes 4 or 5.  I found the right Nathan Aldrich easily in the index to the “Jacob” volumes.  Descendants in each of the four sons’ books are in alpha order BY FIRST NAME.  So I looked up each ancestor by first name.

Aldrich (covers)

Mr. Aldrich left his manuscripts to the National Aldrich Association (of which he was a founding member, see his picture and some early Association details here).  The Association retyped or copied the pages in 1998.  To the best of my knowledge these volumes exist in TWO places only (outside of any copies the National Aldrich Association might hold):

  1. The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center, Providence. Bound volumes shelved in Reading Room.
  2. The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.  Manuscript 458.

As far as I can tell, they have not been microfilmed by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, nor does any digital copy exist online that I can find. Here is the Worldcat entry.  It does not appear to be on Hathitrust or Internet Archive nor do I see any evidence that these pages were ever bound for sale.  I suspect the Association had, at one time, bigger plans for the data – but I wish they would make the pages available online.

I have learned quite a bit about my Aldrich line through this manuscript but I will need to further explore, verify and question what I’m seeing.

I enjoyed exploring this set more closely at home from the few pages I photographed.  I strongly recommend that New England researchers find a way to utilize this manuscript in one of the two repositories.

More sources

(1) The website of the National Aldrich Association has an interesting bibliography for Aldrich research. Most of the books on the list are either specifically about certain branches, or not reliable, or I am just unfamiliar with them.   The articles section farther down on the list is a unique compiled bibliography of research articles and booklets, and might be helpful, if you can access the journals. Oddly, the web page states that these volumes are unindexed, which is not true.

(2) Mr. Aldrich in his preface to volume 1, pages XiI and XIIi, reviews a list of sources and on p. IX reviews some special sources:

Several years after the huge task of this project was initiated, it was learned that Marcus Morton (7) Aldrich (1834-1914) of the Jacob (2) branch had done a large amount of Aldrich research, but had passed away before he had completed a record for publication.  Similarly, Charles Henry Pope of Cambridge, Mass. in 1916-1918 compiled considerable Aldrich data but died before having it published.  The Marcus M. Collection was safely kept by his son Frank Morton (8) (1863-1960), but was not readily available for viewing or use until mid 1961 after his daughter Florence Joanna (9) (1890-1974) had presented it to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Mass.  The Pope Collection was given to that Society in 1929, but general knowledge of it was not widely known.

The Marcus M. Aldrich Collection consists mainly of hand written manuscripts and quite an assortment of small notebooks.  The latter revealed a considerable number of problems in regard to lineage of quite a number of persons which remained unsolved.

Most of the genealogical correspondence of Marcus M.(7) Aldrich became the property of Earl D. (10) Aldrich (1903-1979) of the Jacob (2) branch in 1961.  Earl, very generously, shared review and use of it with others interested.

Note that this Marcus Morton Aldrich collection (NOT the books I have been reviewing here) is available at NEHGS ONLY BY APPOINTMENT since it is stored off-site.  Charles Henry Pope appears in the NEHGS card catalog numerous times but it’s hard to say which papers, if any, concern the Aldriches.

(3) Another unpublished manuscript that has information about the Cumberland, Rhode Island Aldriches is a folder in Abigail Sprague’s notes on the History of Cumberland (note – this is in the Rhode Island Historical Society library, Mss 1023).

Graves of Asa and Lucy Aldrich at West Wrentham Cemetery. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Graves of my 6x-great grandparents Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich at West Wrentham Cemetery. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

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Learning more about the Aldriches

Recently, I have been learning more about Asa Aldrich of Cumberland, Rhode Island and nearby Sheldonville (West Wrentham), Massachusetts.

This recent curiosity began over the past year as I have corresponded a bit with a small group of volunteers who are documenting some cemeteries that my Aldrich and Darling ancestors are buried in, particularly the Sheldonville Cemetery.  The cemetery is in back of a house that has a historic marker for my 5x great grandfather, Nathan Aldrich, in the Sheldonville village in Wrentham.

When I mentioned Nathan Aldrich’s house in an email, one of the volunteers told me something very interesting.  She gave me the address of another house very near to Nathan’s on West Street that had belonged to Asa Aldrich, Nathan’s father.  He is my 6x great grandfather.  She kindly copied the entries for both houses that she found in a booklet by the Wrentham Historical Commission, A Guide to Historic Wrentham, Massachusetts, 1993.  She was sure that the public library had a copy.

This is the story of how that small collaboration led to a lot of new information for me.

A Guide to Historic Wrentham, Massachusetts

A Guide to Historic Wrentham, Massachusetts

Reviewing what I know about Asa Aldrich

I am descended from Asa Aldrich in the following way:

My grandmother Edna Darling is a descendant of Asa Aldrich.

My grandmother Edna Darling is a descendant of Asa Aldrich.

Here is what I knew about Asa Aldrich:

  • Asa Aldrich was born 10 May 1744 in Mendon, Massachusetts (1).   He was the first child born to Jonathan Aldrich and Patience (Gaskill) Aldrich (2).  On his father’s side, he descended from George Aldrich and Fernando Thayer (among the original settlers of Mendon, Massachusetts), and on his mother’s, from early Salem and Ipswich families.  Provided Southwick, Salem’s Quaker daughter who was immortalized in the Whittier poem “Cassandra Southwick” was Asa’s great-great grandmother.
  • He married Lucy Haskell in 1770, daughter of Abner Haskell and Grace (Slack) Haskell.  (Lucy had a twin brother, Comfort Haskell, who served in the Revolutionary War in some Rhode Island militias, and his widow was granted a pension in 1849.  I had not seen many such pensions originating in Rhode Island, and I realized as I read the 57 pages on Fold3.com that many officers and friends were mentioned there. Note to self – any pension record from the town of an ancestor is worth reading, particularly if the ancestor served but left few records. In this case, there is no evidence that Asa served in the war.)
  • Asa and Lucy had two sons recorded in Wrentham, Nathaniel in 1771 and Nathan in 1773 (3).  The other children were recorded in Asa’a probate record, 1826, and in various deeds:  Abigail (Aldrich) Barnes, David Aldrich, Amey (Aldrich) Hancock, Amos Aldrich, and Samuel Aldrich.

And here is what I am learning by consulting new sources:

  • A Suffolk County deed from 1772.  It occurred to me that since Norfolk County deeds, online at FamilySearch, begin in 1793, there must be earlier deeds in a parent county.  That would be Suffolk.  There were some deeds from prior generations there, and a 1772 deed for Asa, who purchased 74 acres from Thomas Jenks of Cumberland, R.I.  The southern bound of the land “borders Hathaway’s” which, based on my previous mappings for Richard Ballou’s property, puts the southern end in Cumberland, R.I.  It’s bound to the West by “Indian Meadow Road” which I believe may be today’s Burnt Swamp Road.  I believe this property was the basis for various gifts of land Asa later gave most of his sons.
The intersection of Burnt Swamp Road (which begins in Cumberland, R.I.) and West Street in Sheldonville.

The intersection of Burnt Swamp Road (which begins in Cumberland, R.I.) and West Street in Sheldonville. This picture was taken in front of the house with the Nathan Aldrich, 1841 plaque.

  • 1782 Rhode Island census lists Asa in Cumberland with a household of six, apparently in neighborhood order, amidst relatives that I am familiar with.
  • 1788, Asa was serving as an overseer of the poor in Cumberland, Rhode Island.  I first learned about this in Unwelcome Americans: Living on the Margin in Early New England by Ruth Wallis Herndon (5).  On the library trip, described below, I found several notes from the town records about Asa’s activities looking after the poor.
  • This one made me laugh.  Asa only appears once in the Records of the Colony of Rhode Island.

[October, 1790].  Whereas, it appears to this Assembly, that Asa Aldrich, an inhabitant of the town of Cumberland, in this state, hath been deemed by the select men of Wrentham, in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, an inhabitant of that town, and in consequence thereof hath been greatly vexed and oppressed.

It is therefore voted and resolved, that His Excellency the Governor, be requested to write to his Excellency the Governor of Massachusetts, representing the state of this matter, and desiring that the select men and inhabitants of the said town of Wrentham, may be directed to surcease all proceedings against the said Asa Aldrich, until the line between said commonwealth and this state, in that part, be settled.  (Volume 10, page 397).

I got a chuckle after years of confusion about whether Asa and his sons really lived in Cumberland or Wrentham, to find that the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts were likewise befuddled over 230 years ago.  I’m not feeling so stupid now.

In a situation like this, you always ask yourself whether the person stayed in one spot, but the county/state lines changed.  I now think Asa may have moved, living first on the Rhode Island end of his property, but later in life, on the Massachusetts side.

  • Sheldonville Baptist Church:  I had seen in Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript about Cumberland (4) in the Rhode Island Historical Society Library that the Aldriches were Baptists.  Several of my direct line were married by Justices of the Peace, but I know that in 1873 Asa’a great granddaughter Abby Darling married Julius Mead at the Sheldonville Baptist Church.  When I visited Sheldonville, there was the church itself, within view of the houses my ancestors lived in.  How involved were they?  I need to explore this further.
  • 1790 census.  After the additional research I’ve done in maps, graves, and other records, when I look at the 1790 census it immediately jumps out at me that Asa is next to his father in law, Abner Haskell, and his wife’s twin brother, Comfort Haskell.  Since there are still some Haskells located on the 1838 Cumberland map given to me by John Tew (see his blog post here for how to get the map), that further clarifies the location of Asa’s house as being on the western edge of Sumner Brown Road.

    Sheldonville, 1888 map showing the location of the cemetery, Nathan's former house, and Asa'a former house.

    Sheldonville, 1888 map showing the location of the cemetery on Burnt Swamp Road, Nathan’s former house, and Asa’a former house.

  • Asa’s house in Sheldonville.  Thanks to my contacts at Find A Grave, I was alerted to Asa’s house in Sheldonville, and drove up to see it, see below.
  • Asa and Lucy’s graves.  I also found, thanks to the entries of those same volunteers of the West Wrentham Cemetery, Asa and Lucy’s graves, see below.
  • Asa’s 1826 probate situation is complicated since it seems to have been processed both in Wrentham, Mass and Cumberland, R.I. , and involved a dispute that I cannot really understand.  I am still gathering the complete documents.

A trip to Sheldonville

I visited the West Wrentham Cemetery recently to look for the graves of Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich.  There were pictures on Find A Grave, of rounded gray markers with the small shoulders rather common for the early 1800’s.  I thought I could find them easily, but as I looked around I realized most of the graves looked exactly like that.

West Wrentham Cemetery

West Wrentham Cemetery.

I finally found them, over to one side.  Asa and Lucy have matching stones, surrounded by names I’m not familiar with.  But in other parts of the cemetery, I spotted many members of Lucy’s family.  Over the course of this particular search I grew much more familiar with all the siblings and spouses.  Looking at early maps, cemeteries, and town notes now, I am starting to recognize most of Sheldonville’s early population.

Graves of Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich

Graves of Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich.

The Fiske Public Library, Wrentham

As I prepared from home to visit the Fiske Public Library to see the Guide to Historic Wrentham I didn’t note anything special on the website.  The day of my visit, I found the library down a side street, parked and entered, and inquired about the booklet.  I was quite surprised when the librarian asked if I was looking for the Genealogy Room.  Well, sure I was.  That sounded good.

Fiske Public  Library, Wrentham

Fiske Public Library, Wrentham

The Genealogy Room was an attractive, quiet space lined with books.  There was a microfilm reader and a small collection of useful microfilm.  I photographed the boxes of microfilm so I would have the titles.

The Genealogy Room at the library, donated by the Ross Family.

The Genealogy Room at the library, donated by the Ross Family.

One very notable feature of the collection was the Wrentham Historical Society MacDougald Collection, a large set of binders covering one wall, containing a huge variety of information about historic Wrentham.  I looked through 10 or 20 of the binders; they are well indexed and hold notes, lists, clippings, abstracts, letters, and copies of all sorts of documentation such as cemetery records, maps, family history, and town business.

A few of the many binders of the MacDougald Collection

A few of the many binders of the MacDougald Collection

I photographed so many pages, particularly of the cemetery plot information and the abstracts of town business (sorted by name), that I went through the two camera batteries I had and started on my phone camera.

One interesting item that I found in the “Aldrich” pages was a study of Asa and Lucy’s son Amos Aldrich, one of the first boat builders in Sheldonville, an area known for boat building.

Another thing I learned, in my reading of the Guide to Historic Wrentham, was that Asa’s son Nathan Aldrich, my 5x-great grandfather, was “a local farmer and builder, who built many houses in Sheldonville”.  Two that still exist today are 57 Hancock Street, c1840, and 63 Burnt Swamp Road.  I had usually seen him described as a farmer, but like many New England farmers he clearly pursued other work as well.  At last, a detail about my ancestors that my husband, the woodworker, might appreciate.

Asa’s house

The volunteers told me about the book A Guide to Historic Wrentham, Massachusetts.  Perusing the book at the library gave me the following information about 995 West Street:

[Simple Georgian – 1816]: This house with gable end to the street and entrance on the side has retained its old corner trim, cornice, cornice returns, doorframe and fine proportions.  There is a shed dormer on the rear and the usual center chimney.

The first owner was Asa Aldrich; the second was his son, Nathan.  Subsequent owners were boat builders, Charles Follett in 1859 and Charles J. Farmer by the turn of the century.

Asa Aldrich's house in Sheldonville, from rather late in life, 1814.

Asa Aldrich’s house in Sheldonville, from rather late in his life, 1816.

If Asa was the original owner, I have to wonder if Nathan built this house, in fact it resembles other houses pictured in the Historic Wrentham booklet.

In conclusion

It meant a lot to me to find another house of my ancestors, particularly one almost 200 years old.  If, according to the booklet, Nathan Aldrich lived in this house later in life (from the deeds I can see that he sold the house with the plaque to his son William in the 1840’s, and William ultimately sold it and moved away) then this one could be the house where Nathan was enumerated in 1850 and 1860, with his grandson Ellis Aldrich Darling, my 3x-great grandfather, and his family, and where my great-great grandfather Addison Parmenter Darling was born in 1856.  Addison left Sheldonville in 1872, as a teenager, to learn silver engraving with his new brother-in-law in the city of Providence.  Many years later, my great grandmother asked my folks to take a drive with her up to Sheldonville, to see if she could spot the house where her father-in-law had been born, but she couldn’t pick it out.

Now, perhaps we’ve found it.


(1)  Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Vital and Town Records, 1620-1988 , database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com, accessed 19 May 2014), entry for Asa Aldrich (Mendon, Births, p. 80).

(2)  Aldrich, Ralph Ernest.  The Aldrich Family Genealogy : Descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, Mass. Part E: Jacob. National Aldrich Association, 1998.  

(3)  Vital Records of Wrentham, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850. Boston:  1910. Volume 1, Births.  Entry for Nathan and Nathaniel Aldrich, page 11.

(4)  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.

(5) Herndon, Ruth Wallis. Unwelcome Americans (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

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sheldonville post cardColor photos by Diane Boumenot, 2014.

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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.

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.

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.

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Over the last few years I have made a lot of progress on tracing my mother’s family.   Over the next year or two I hope to do some research on ten problems I’ve identified.  I am recording them here, and I will provide links, in the future, to any postings I do about each one.

What surprised me about this list is the huge range of skills and strategies that I would need to pursue these questions.  Searching in accessible resources and repositories has helped, but not solved these problems.  This is where research really begins. None of these are easy, but working on them will be a real education.

1. Jessie Ruth (McLeod) Murdock, 1861 – 1936

Jessie Ruth McLeod with husband Louis Murdock

Jessie Ruth McLeod was born March 10, 1861 in Pictou, Nova Scotia.  She is my great great grandmother along the all-female line.  Her marriage certificate lists her parents as William and Rachel McLeod.  She arrived in the U.S. around 1881.  There is no evidence of her coming with close family, but it’s hard to believe she came without family or friends at all.   Her subsequent life I know all about, but this is all I have of her family origins.  I have only one possible match in the Canadian census, and the only other clue is that her eventual father in law, William Murdock, had also come from Pictou, much earlier.

  • Skills needed:  Make timeline for her, try once again to learn more about her father in law’s Pictou  family, and explore naturalization records in Massachusetts.  Re-explore family records for clues.

2. Catherine (Youngs Bennett Baldwin) Ross, 1835 – 1907

Worcester Daily Spy, 03 May 1894. Catherine and third husband, Hiram Ross, lost their house in a fire in Sterling, Mass.

Another great-great-grandmother, Catherine Youngs, is the kind of mystery woman a person could chase for decades.  Born in Surrey, England, perhaps on 4 Jul 1835, Catherine arrived in the U.S. around 1843.  On one marriage certificate she lists her parents as William and Catherine Youngs.  On another, she lists them as “unknown.”  Three of her children thought her maiden name was Youngs, and one thought it was Spaulding.  She was married three times, to Bennett, Baldwin, and Ross.  After her marriage to Hiram Ross in 1870, I know a great deal about her.  Before that, very little.  Her first home in the U.S. could have been Massachusetts or New York, or someplace else.  If she came with family, I know nothing about them.

  • Skills needed:  Analyze all data reported by her and by others about her, look for other British citizens in Allegany County, New York, explore early British census and vital records,  explore U.S. immigration and naturalization records in Massachusetts and New York, look for the first husband William Bennett using methods appropriate for common name searches, and talk to my mother about the idea that her father could have been wrong about his grandmother’s maiden name being Spaulding.

3. Maria (Shipley) Martin, 1848 – ?

Maria’s daughter Bessie’s marriage announcement fails to mention Maria’s husband, although I know he was alive. — The Milton News/Dorchester Advertiser vol. XII No. 24, 10 Sep 1892

The problem with yet another great great grandmother, Maria Shipley, is almost the opposite problem.  Born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia around 1841, I know a great deal about her Shipley/Innis/Dougherty/Bransby/Munroe ancestors.  She came to the U.S. around 1885 with her husband and children, and at least one sister. But after her daughter’s wedding in 1892 in Milton, Massachusetts, at which time she seems to be separated from her husband, I have no knowledge of her.  So I would like to know more.

  • Skills needed:  Find local newspapers for any town she might have been living in. Pin down locations and circumstances for each relative I know of in Massachusetts, which would be her estranged husband, her six children, her sister, and a niece.

4. Anna Jean (Bennett Gilley) Douglas, 1854 – 1939

Anna Jean in Montreal. Perhaps around 1880?

My grandfather’s aunt Anna Jean Bennett was born in Belmont, New York in 1854 and her parents seem to have divorced, perhaps, soon after.  By 1860 she was living with her mother and stepfather in Belmont, in obscure poverty.  In 1873 she married a Boston druggist, Harrison Gilley.  They divorced at some point and in 1884 she married a Providence attorney, William Wilberforce Douglas, who became a judge and, eventually, Chief Justice of the R.I. Supreme Court.  From 1884 on, I am very familiar with her life.  But other than that first marriage record, I have no idea what happened to her from 1860 to 1884.  The lovely photographic portrait of her above was taken in Montreal during this period.  Her brother was a globe-trotting artist.  Who was her father (named William Bennett)?  I would like to know her story, which I suspect is fascinating.

  • Skills needed: Learn more about Canadian border crossings  for this time period, as well as Montreal resources such as newspapers, employment records, city directories, high schools, art.  Try to find her in the 1870/71 census, and 1880/81, possibly living with her father in the U.S. or Canada, using searches on multiple members of the family, since her father and brother have very common names. Since the first husband was from Boston, use city directories to pin down his locations over many years. Review all later artifacts, documents and photos for additional clues.

5. Hannah (Andrews) Lamphere, 1819? – 1878

Cemetery surrounding the Long Society Meeting House in Preston

Hannah Andrews, my ggg-grandmother, was born in Massachusetts or Connecticut around 1819.  She has a brother Alden and her parents’ names may be Jesse and Sarah Andrews.  She married Russell Lamphere, Jr. in 1838 in Preston, Connecticut.  There were a number of Andrews who moved from northeastern Massachusetts to Preston about 130 years before Hannah was born.  But Hannah may actually have been born in Massachusetts.  Her brother married a girl from Springfield, Mass.  I can find no sign of her parents – I wonder if they died young.

  • Skills needed: do another literature search, analyze known information, learn more about guardianship records just over the border in the central portion of southern Massachusetts and also in Preston.  Explore church records for the church where they married.

6. Daniel Lamphere, 1745? – 1808

Russell Lamphere, late of Westerly, but now residing in Norwich

Daniel Lamphere is the father of my gggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere, Sr.  The detail above from Daniel’s 1808 probate file, about his son Russell, is part of the substantial evidence of the branch back to Daniel.  Daniel, from Westerly, is likely descended somehow from George Lamphere, an original settler of Westerly, R.I.  But there were several Daniel Lampheres in the area at that time and it’s confusing, so, no luck so far.

  • Skills needed: Learning more about all the people surrounding Daniel and his wife Nancy is the strategy I have started and plan to continue.  Track down his Westerly deeds.  Find out where he’s buried. 

7. Lydia (Miner) Lamphere, 1787 – 1849

The Factories at Yantic Falls, Norwich, from “Connecticut Historical Collections” by John Warner Barber, 1836.

Lydia Miner of Norwich, Connecticut, my gggg-grandmother, married Russell Lamphere, Sr. in 1807 in Norwich, CT.  She passed away in Norwich in 1849.  There is some suggestion she may have been born in Rhode Island, most likely just over the border in Westerly, like her husband.  Miners originally settled the nearby southeastern corner of Connecticut.  People familiar with the well-documented Miners/Minors think this problem should be easily solved, but so far, it hasn’t been.  I believe Lydia and her husband were attracted by the growing factories in Norwich, since they lived in the Yantic Falls neighborhood.  Of all of my family, they were among the earliest to abandon farming for industrial life.  It’s possible that she and Russell met as factory hands, or that her father worked in an early factory.

  • Skills needed: Local Yantic Falls history is likely to provide additional clues.   Also, less easily accessed sources of local Westerly and Norwich information such as church  records, town council records, the Connecticut State Library, cemetery records, and still more tracing of each of their children may help.  Analyzing every available fact may bring up other possibilities.  I would like to find where she and Russell are buried.

8. Thomas Arnold, 1733 – 1817

Thomas’ father (Lieut. Thos.) appears in a 1748 Highway District list, a good source to learn who the neighbors are, on page 30 of “History of the Town of Smithfield” by Thomas Steere, 1881.

My ggggggg-grandfather Thomas Arnold comes from a well-documented Smithfield, Rhode Island family.  But of course my branch is not so well documented.  His wife, Rachel, might be a Smith.   That possibility is repeated here and there with no evidence.  I wonder if a concentrated look at deeds or other local records might help me determine Thomas’ association with nearby Smith families.

  • Skills needed: Investigate town records from Smithfield and any deed connected with Thomas (who is not the only Thomas Arnold in that area).  Continue to research each of the children.

9. Mercy (Ballou) Aldrich, 1778 – ?

1803 Divorce granted to Mercy Ballou by the R.I. Supreme Court

Working on Thomas Arnold, and local deeds, might help me figure out whatever happened to his granddaughter, my ggggg-grandmother Mercy Ballou, who divorced Nathan Aldrich in 1803. I have no knowledge of her life after that, but I would like to know what happened to her.  Her former husband, and his second wife, sold property to her father after the divorce, and I believe they moved up the road to Wrentham, Mass after that. I am trying to pin down her father Richard Ballou’s property to find a location she may have returned to after her divorce.

  • Skills needed: There are numerous small family cemeteries in Smithfield.  I wonder if she could have been buried there.  Her father’s 1824 will only mentions his wife and “lawful heirs”, no specifics.  Knowing far more about her siblings might help.  

10. Russell R. Lamphere, 1818 – 1898

After leaving Alabama in the mid-1870’s, Russell ended up using his metalworking skills at the Oriental Mills, in Providence. This is the building (Union Paper) as it appears today.

Of all the details of my ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere‘s life that I don’t know, one thing that I am most curious about is his relationship with Connecticut Congressman John Turner Wait.  Congressman Wait submitted a war reparations bill for Russell Lamphere three times in the 1880’s.  What happened in Alabama that would have justified reparations, and why were they submitted by a Connecticut Congressman even though Russell and his family had moved from Alabama to Rhode Island?  There is nothing in Congressman Wait’s rather illustrious family history that suggests a connection to either Russell’s wife or mother, and yet I suspect there is a connection, or at the very least, perhaps Mr. Wait left some papers.

  • I am also learning a lot more about Tuscaloosa, Alabama during the Civil War.  A kind reader approached NARA in Washington DC about any files connected to Russell’s war claims.  Staff did some substantial searching; it wasn’t perfunctory.  So I feel fairly confident there is nothing to be found there.  I need to move on.  I have a half-formed idea that studying Congressman Wait’s complete genealogy will reveal some answers to my own.

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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.

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My ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich (1773-1862) had a brother David (1781-1879).  Their father, Asa Aldrich, endeavored to give each of his sons a farm, but to David, he gave a college education instead.  David’s choice of the ministry seemed to go wrong early on.  Instead, David lived a long and quiet life in Cumberland, Rhode Island as a farmer, on the estate formerly owned by Rev. Benjamin Shaw.  After Asa’s death in 1826, there seems to be some controversy about a copy of Asa’s will being destroyed by fire, and whether the copy David put forth was a true copy.

It may take me years to get to the bottom of that.  If you are curious about the sources so far, or a descendant of David, please contact me.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned more about David through the two documents, below.

His graduation announcement:

R. ISL.  Providence, Sept. 6


On Wednesday last the annual Commencement of Brown University was celebrated in the Baptist meeting-house in this town. 

The degree of Bachelor of Arts was conferred on David Aldrich, Richard B. Bedon, David Benedict, John B. Brown, Martin Benson, Palmer Cleveland, Elijah Dexter, John G. Deane, Henry Holmes, Daniel Johnson, Daniel March, David Perry, Willard Preston, Lewis R. Sams, and Noah Whitman : — And the degree of Master of Arts was conferred on Benjamin Cowell, Gardner Daggett, John Godfrey, David Holman, Paul Jewett, David Leonard, Jeremiah Pond, jun. Jason Sprague, Jonathan Thayer, Daniel Thomas, and Wilkes Wood, all alumni of the University.

The Reverend Henry Edes, of Providence, and the Rev. John Pipon of Taunton, Masters at Harvard ; the Rev. Joseph Clay, of Savannah, Master at Nassan-Hall ; the Rev. Elitha Williams, of Beverly, Master at Yale, and Dr. John Mackie, of Providence, Bachelor of Medicine at Dartmouth, were admitted ad eundem.

— Newburyport Herald, September 9, 1806, accessed on GenealogyBank.com

First Baptist Church in America, Providence, R.I., erected A.D. 1775

The second item is an obituary:

Brown University.  Necrology for the Academical Year of 1878-9


Rev. David Aldrich, class of 1806, died in Cumberland, R.I., May 19, 1879, aged 98 years, 4 months and 5 days.  He was the son of Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich, and was born in Cumberland, January 14, 1781.  He pursued his preparatory studies in West Wrentham under the instruction of Rev. William Williams (B.U. 1769), who was a member of the first class graduated at Brown.  After a course of theological study, which he pursued with Dr. Gano, he was ordained to the Christian ministry under the direction of the First Baptist Church, which church he had joined by baptism while he was at the college.  He was then settled as pastor over the Baptist Church in Goshen, Conn.  But very soon he was obliged, by ill health, to give up the pastoral care of the church, and afterwards, from a distrust of his fitness for preaching, he retired from all ministerial service, and purchasing a place in Cumberland, devoted himself to farming pursuits, in which he continued all his long life.  He was, however, always fond of study, was a great reader, and was especially well versed in American history, and interested in all great national questions of the past as well as the present.  Mr. Aldrich was justice of the peace for many years, and filled other offices of trust in his native town.  He was honored as a good Christian man, interested in all enterprises favorable to morality and philanthropy.  His faculties continued to be clear and vigorous to the very end of his extended life “his eye was not dim, nor his natural strength abated.”  His Christian faith and hope were strong and bright to the last; and his end was peace.  Mr. Aldrich was at the time of his death the senior Alumnus of the University.  Mr. Aldrich married in 1813, Miss Jemima Rhodes, of Wrentham, Mass.  Three of their children survive him, Mr. Amos Aldrich, of Foxboro, Mass., Mr. Emulus Aldrich, of Ashland, Mass., and Mrs. Eliza (Aldrich) Freeman, of Cumberland, who is living on her father’s farm.

— The Providence Daily Journal, vol. LII, Wednesday Morning, June 18, 1879, no. 145, page 1, accessed on microfilm at the Rhode Island Historical Society Library.

David was buried along with many other family members at the Burnt Swamp Road Cemetery in Sheldonville, Massachusetts.

– picture from Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine, 1877.

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