Archive for the ‘Baldwin’ Category

Where There’s a Will

This is a story about comparing Charles C. Baldwin’s 1881 Baldwin Genealogy to original documents (photographed and appearing on the web) relating to David Baldwin (1734-1824), and questioning the conclusions drawn by the author.  Lately, I find myself increasingly able to discern what sources were used to reach conclusions in unsourced books and articles, and to re-analyze those sources myself and perhaps reach different conclusions.  After doing this several times, it becomes second nature.  I hope.

My goal was to learn more about the life of David Baldwin, my fifth great grandfather (in the line of Billerica Baldwins he is: David4, Joseph3, Thomas2, John1).  My grandfather is descended from David Baldwin in the following way:  Miles Edward Baldwin — Miles Edward Baldwin — Edward Baldwin — Eli Baldwin — Abiel Baldwin — David Baldwin.

This is what The Baldwin Genealogy has to say about David Baldwin (p. 698-699):

83. DAVID 4 Joseph 3 Thomas 2 b. about 1734, probably in Billerica.
His father settled in Townsend, and he in Pepperel, Mass.
His will, dated 1802, was proved May 2, 1824, by consent of heirs.

205. David. George H. can’t find out about him.
206. Abiel.+
207. Abel. George H. says, three sons and two daus. , of whom one dau. is
living in 1876.
208. Abigail, m. Elias Boutell.
209. Amy, after 1802 and before 1824, m. Hezekiah Wines, and had three sons,
of whom two are living in 1876.
210. Elizabeth, m. Abijah Jewett.
211. Hannah, m., after 1802 and before 1824, Thomas Holder.
212. Eliza (not in will), m. Thomas H. Bailey.
213. Lucy.
214. Silvia (not in will of 1802), m. Boutell.

He lived in Pepperel, near the Townsend line.

The Townsend Historical Society, 2012.  Photo by Diane Boumenot

The Townsend Historical Society, 2012. Photo by Diane Boumenot

David’s early life

David’s parents were Joseph Baldwin (1702-1747) and Esther Manning (1703-1740). Joseph and Esther were first cousins. The page of Townsend, Massachusetts births which contained their children has been missing from the record book for over a century (per Henry C. Hallowell’s Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts (Boston, NEHGS, 1992, page 203)) so I am still piecing that together.  Their oldest son, Ebenezer, was “from his Childhood Deprived of his Eyesight in a Great Measure” according to Townsend town selectmen (see probate #836, p. 19). The Selectmen felt that Ebenezer was not provided for adequately in his father’s will, and might become a charge to the town.  David’s siblings also included Joseph, Thomas, Reuben and Abel, plus a half sister Thankful (died young).  David was six when his mother died, and 13 when his father died.  David’s father Joseph also left behind his second wife, Thankful Prescott Baldwin.  The inventory showed a well-stocked house and farm in Townsend, including some books, with more farm animals than I normally see.

Probate records for Joseph Baldwin (#836, #837, #838, #839, Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871.Online database,  AmericanAncestors.org) show that David and his brother Abel went to the custody of two uncles in Billerica, John Baldwin and David Baldwin.  David and Abel shared the inheritance of a second farm in Townsend, part of the “Mount Grace” area.  I’m not sure how the boys fared, but the guardian of the two older brothers made a special request to the judge to purchase clothes for the older boys who, “by reson of there father’s long illness were exceeding bear ont [barren?] for cloathing”.  Perhaps the stepmother was overwhelmed by caring for the sick husband.  It’s not really clear to me whether fabric was usually manufactured at home in the 1740’s, or purchased.

signatures of Davids uncles and guardians John Baldwin and David Baldwin, in Joseph Baldwin's probate packet.

signatures and seals of David’s uncles John Baldwin and David Baldwin, in Joseph Baldwin’s probate packet.

David “of Pepperell” married my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Boynton (1743-1777) in 1769 and Elizabeth Blood (1743-1790) in 1778, according to Henry C. Hallowell’s Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts (Boston, NEHGS, 1992).  He was the father of 9 children.  David may have served in the Revolutionary War, but there were several cousins by that name, so I’m unsure.  I see no evidence that he married a third time.

Deeds for David Baldwin

Looking through the large file of Middlesex County probate records on familysearch.org I had a hard time distinguishing David Baldwin, yeoman, with others of the same description.  I believe these may refer to him:

  • 1763 deed for 3 acres in Billerica, sold by David to Jonathan French, recorded in 1777
  • 1770 deed for a purchase in western Pepperell that David made from Simion Gilson, recorded in 1798
  • 1776 deed for a purchase from Jonathan Shepley in western Pepperell, recorded in 1798

Cambridge is a long way off, and it’s possible that Pepperell residents needed to file deeds there.  Or, there could be some other reason for the delays, and some event in 1798 that prompted the eventual filings.

These deeds would support David’s Billerica-to-Pepperell path that I read about in the Baldwin genealogy (The Baldwin Genealogy, from 1500 to 1881 by Charles Candee Baldwin, Cleveland: 1881, p. 698-699) but I didn’t get much further information from them. I don’t see deeds late in life or after death that reflect transfers to the children.  I eliminated the other David Baldwin deeds for one reason or another, but I may be missing something.

David Baldwin’s children

The Pepperell birth records (Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, Pepperell, Book A, p48, from Ancestry.com, image 447 of 1148) show the list of children of David and his first and second wives.

David's children were David, Elizabeth (died young), Abigail, Abiel, Elizabeth, Amy, Abel, Hannah, and Lucy.

David’s children were David, Elizabeth (died young), Abigail, Abiel, Elizabeth, Amy, Abel, [another record intervenes] Hannah, and Lucy.

I was interested to see that another record book from the Pepperell set shows the same family again in a cleaned up, more obviously transcribed page in Book B (Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, Pepperell, Book B, p29, from Ancestry.com, image 552 of 1148).  I noticed that this version omits or smudges the “2nd” after the name of the second Elizabeth; a noteworthy difference if someone was not aware there were two wives named Elizabeth.

David's children were David, Elizabeth (died Young), Abigail, Abiel, Elizabeth, Amy, Abel, Hannah, and Lucy.

The second appearance of the list in the Pepperell records

David had the following children:

with first wife Elizabeth Boynton, 1743-1777

  • David Baldwin, b. 1770
  • Elizabeth Baldwin, b. 1772
  • Abigail Baldwin, b. 1774
  • Abiel Baldwin, b. 1776

with second wife Elizabeth Blood, 1743-1790

  • Elizabeth Baldwin, b. 1779
  • Amy Baldwin, b. 1781
  • Abel Baldwin, b. 1782
  • Hannah Baldwin, b. 1784
  • Lucy Baldwin, b. 1786

Probate records online

What got this search started were blog posts by Randy Seaver and Bill West about some probate records recently made available online.  The probate records of Middlesex County, Massachusetts have been placed on the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  To have the packets online is a huge improvement over traveling to East Cambridge, Mass.  I just go to the search screen on AmericanAncestors.org (requires NEHGS membership] and use the record set “Middlesex County, MAIndex to Probate Records and (once I know the number from the index) Probate File Papers.

David Baldwin’s will, 1802

David Baldwin (1734-1824) was a yeoman of Pepperell, Massachusetts.  Since his second wife Elizabeth had died in 1790, David was a widower in 1802 when he made the will, and when it was proved in the 1824.  No mention was made in the will of any wife, and the estate was divided among the children.

David lived to be an old man, dying in Pepperell at age 89.  I found the 1802 will of David Baldwin (#812, Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871.Online database.  AmericanAncestors.org).

The will, transcribed:

In the name of God Amen this second day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two I, David Baldwin of Pepperell in the county of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts husbandman now of sound mind and memory thanks to God therefore, but calling to mind the frailty and mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do for avoiding controversies after my decease make and ordain this my last will and testament.

Principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God who gave it, and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my executor hereafter named, nothing doubting but at the general Resurection I shall Receive the same again by the power of God, and as touching such worldly goods and estate where with it has pleased God to bless me with in this life I give and dispose of in manner following

First I order all my just debts and funeral charges to be paid by my executor here after named

I give and bequeath onto my oldest son David Baldwin Junior the sum of one dollar which together with what he has before received makes up his sole share of my estate.

I give unto my second son Abiel Baldwin all my farming and husbandry tools of every kind, also my house together with the one half of all my wearing apparel.

I give unto my third son Abel Baldwin the other half of my wearing apparel.

I give unto my daughter Abigail now wife of Elias Boutell the sum of one dollar .

I give unto my daughter Amy Baldwin the sum of one dollar.

I give unto my daughter Elizabeth now the wife of Abijah Jewett the sum of one dollar.

I give unto my daughter Hannah Baldwin the sum of one dollar.

I give unto my daughter Lucy Baldwin the sum of one dollar.

all which sums I order to be paid unto them by my executor in one year after my decease.

And I further give unto my said three daughters Amy Hannah, and Lucy all my household furniture of all kinds for ever.

See next page

And all the remainder of my estate which may consist of money, notes of hand, and live stock. I do hereby order that the same be equally divided and shared between my son Abiel, and Abel, and my daughters Abigail, Elizabeth, Amy, Hannah, and Lucy.

And I do hereby nominate and appoint my said son Abel Baldwin soul executor to this my last will and testament.

In testimony whereof I the said David Baldwin have here unto set my hand and seal the day and year first above written.

David Baldwin

now signed sealed and published by the said David Baldwin to be his last will and testament in presence of us

Edmond Blood

Jonathan Blood

Joseph Heald

Of David’s 9 children, the first Elizabeth had died at age 1, and all others were living in 1802.

Guardianship of David Baldwin, 1821

In 1821, when David was 86, some family members appealed to the court of probate for a guardianship to be established for David Baldwin of Pepperell (#811, Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871. Online database.  AmericanAncestors.org).

Whereas Hezekiah Winn & others, your friends and children, have represented to the judge of said court, that you are a non compos mentis person & incapable of taking care of yourself and prayed that a guardian may be appointed to you as the Law directs.

The guardianship was established and an inventory taken totaling $902.  The inventory showed a minimal, rustic set of belongings, such as an old man living alone might have used. No indication was ever given for the nature of the disorder.  Although, perhaps “Eight Cyder Barrels” was a clue.  John Walton of Pepperell, Esquire, was appointed guardian, and Walter Fiske, Yeoman, and Hezekiah Winn, Yeoman, as sureties.

Family members in 1821

Signatures on the guardianship papers, 1821

Signatures on the guardianship papers, 1821

The signatures on the guardianship record give some indication of the fate of the children by 1802:

  • Hezekiah Winn
  • Amy [Winn?]
  • Abijah Jewett
  • Elizabeth Jewett
  • Abel Baldwin
  • Thos Holden
  • Hannah Holden
  • Lucy Baldwin
  • Elias Bouttell, for Eliza and David B. Bouttell
  • Sylvia Bouttell
  • David Baldwin Jun

Family members in 1824

Signatures of heirs in probate record, 1824.

Signatures of heirs in probate record, 1824.

These family members signed the probate papers in 1824:

  • David Baldwin
  • Abiel Baldwin
  • Abijah Jewett in right of Elizabeth my wife
  • Hezekiah Winn in right of Amy my wife
  • Thomas Holden in right of Hannah my wife
  • Thomas H. Bailey in right of Eliza my wife
  • Lucy Baldwin
  • Sylvia Boutell

It’s interesting that Abel signed the guardianship in 1821, and Abiel signed the probate in 1824.  Otherwise, the other five are the same.

Where the book was wrong

Comparing what I saw in the probate and vital records to David Baldwin’s entry (page 698-699)  in The Baldwin Genealogy by Charles Candee Baldwin showed me a lot about the author’s methods.  In the fairly brief entry for David and his family (in green), the following errors/omissions were made:

[first of all, names are not in birth order]

205. David. George H. can’t find out about him. David ended up owning a large farm in nearby Fitchburg, in Worcester County.  I found an 1830 probate packet for him, #2861, in the Worcester County probate records on FamilySearch.org.  The record of the children of his two marriages, to Abigail and, later, Edah Putnam, is found on pages 228 and 227 of Fitchburg Town Records, Births, Marriages and Deaths in the Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records on Ancestry.com.  I base my conclusion on him naming a son Abel and the presence of 5 family members among his creditors mentioned in the probate records.
206. Abiel.+  page 707 details my 4th great grandfather Abiel’s life. OK.
207. Abel. George H. says, three sons and two daus. , of whom one dau. is living in 1876.  OK. I believe Abel died 1855.
208. Abigail, m. Elias Boutell.  OK.
209. Amy, after 1802 and before 1824, m. Hezekiah Wines, and had three sons, of whom two are living in 1876.  Amy married Hezekiah Winn.  She died in 1846 in Pepperell.
210. Elizabeth, m. Abijah Jewett.  He left off the first Elizabeth, but this may have been intentional.
211. Hannah, m., after 1802 and before 1824, Thomas Holder.  She married Thomas Holden.
212. Eliza (not in will), m. Thomas H. Bailey. Eliza Boutell Bailey was a granddaughter, not a daughter; the daughter of Abigail.
213. Lucy.  It’s possible Lucy never married; she was still single in 1824.
214. Silvia (not in will of 1802), m. Boutell.  Sylvia Boutell was a granddaughter, not a daughter; the daughter of Abigail.

I believe most of the problem stems from the fact that the author, or the mysterious “George H.” (never explained in the book) only used the probate record #812, and missed probate #811, as well as the Pepperell vital records.

And that’s the story of how I was able to make my own analysis of David Baldwin’s family, using the book details only as suggestions.

The judge

Anyone who reads Middlesex probate records from the first half of the nineteenth century is familiar with the name Judge Fay.  I have seen it many times.  It occurred to me to look into his history a little bit.

Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay

Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay

Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay (1766-1856) served as a Middlesex “probate of wills” judge from 1821 – 1856, and also as a trustee of Harvard College and Grand Master of the Masons. From some old Boston families, I assumed he would have had a portrait or photograph taken of himself.  Sure enough, I found his likeness on page 193 of Ancient Middlesex with Brief Biographical Sketches by Levi S. Gould (Somerville, 1905).   For years I had pictured the judge as if he were Lionel Barrymore playing Judge Hardy in the original Andy Hardy movie “A Family Affair” but in fact he was even kinder looking than that.  It’s funny to think of him knowing generations of my family members.

Things I learned

  • At first, I only found and read David’s after-death probate.  It was only when I saw a dollar total carried over from “his guardian” that I realized there had been guardianship papers in a different record.  Then, I downloaded that document, too (just one number prior).  Much head-smacking and a solemn vow to always look a couple of records forward, and back.
  • Even finding a handwritten set of birth records for a family does not mean there’s not a more original version elsewhere in the records.  One set looked neat, all in the same hand, and obviously transcribed, which tipped me off to try and find an earlier set.  Turns out, the transcription had an important omission.
  • I haven’t mentioned a Sons of the American Revolution record that I found for David Baldwin mentioning his son, David, which was very unreliable, but from that I DID find the name of David Junior’s second wife, and that helped me distinguish among many David Baldwins in northern Massachusetts and find the probate record with the evidence.  Even in a bad compiled source, one thing might be right.
  • At first I was doubtful that the Fitchburg probate record was for the David Baldwin Junior I was looking for because the farm was so large and worth so much money, and he owned a church pew. Seemed like he couldn’t be my David Baldwin’s son.   Then I saw the list of debts to be settled (about half the value of the estate) and I started to believe.  Is that wrong?  I need to remember that some of my ancestors went to church, probably, and in 1800 even a modest gift from a father to his oldest son could be turned into something substantial.
  • The author assumed, if the husband signed probate and his wife didn’t sign, that she must have passed away.  Legally, that’s a bad assumption since the daughter’s share would have gone to her CHILDREN, not her husband. I wonder how many authors were unaware of the way the law affected the records they were using?

The Middlesex probate records were from:  Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871. Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.) Accessed 9/1/2014.

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Thanks to Randy Seaver’s recent blog post, I learned about a new set of documents released on the FamilySearch.org website – Massachusetts Land Records 1620-1986.

I really couldn’t believe my luck.  The collection includes deeds and mortgages from all counties of Massachusetts.  Available years vary by county.  According to the website there are 5,766,135 images.  Yup, over 5 million.  And, it’s free.

However, this collection is not yet digitally indexed.  That means you must select the county you want, and select an index volume for a certain time period, look there for a name, note the book and page, and then move on to open that book (actually, it’s like opening a roll of microfilm) and find the page.  It’s just like using Family History Library microfilm, except of course that this is free, and you are using it conveniently from your own computer, where you can easily save the documents you find.

Using the Index

I decided to start with some Townsend, Massachusetts deeds to see if I could learn more about the life of my mysterious  ggg-grandfather, Eli Baldwin, who died in 1833 at the age of 29.  When his young widow made a will and died, six years later, her probate record did not mention any real estate.

I clicked “Browse the 5,700,000 records” – then selected Middlesex County:

Choosing Middlesex County

Choosing the GRANTEE Index for the years I want:

Choosing the GRANTEE Index for the years I want

I found only one entry for Eli Baldwin here in the 1800-1835 Grantee Index:

I found only one entry for Eli Baldwin here in the 1800-1835 Grantee Index.

I copied the entry with Snip-It, started a Word document, pasted it in, and typed a heading to indicate where I found the index entry.  In looked at Grantee and Grantor indices and only found two deeds for Eli.  My Word document looked like this:

word list

Looking at the Purchase Deed

Of course, I have no idea if this is my Eli Baldwin.  The index styles vary from county to county, but in Middlesex, towns are not listed in the index.  You have to go by name only, and find the town on the deed itself.

Back on the Middlesex County page, I pulled up volume 283 from the Deed books.  I found page 478 by guessing, and checking the page numbers that came up.

The first deed was for a purchase by Eli Baldwin in 1827 (recorded 1828) Book 283, p. 478-9:

Know all men by these presents that I Abigail Durant of Concord in the County of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts widow in consideration of three hundred dollars paid me by Eli Baldwin of Townsend in said county carpenter the receipt hereof I hereby acknowledge do hereby give grant sell and convey unto the said Eli Baldwin his heirs and assigns the following parcels of real estate situated in said Townsend to wit so much of the real estate whereof Isaac Durant late of Townsend died as was assigned to me as dower in said estate the reversion therein was conveyed to me by Henry Hoar administrator to said Estate by deed dated June 11 1825 and for a particular description of said premises reference may be had to said deed and to the Report of the Commissioners who assigned said dower and to the record thereof in the Probate Office in said County and also one eighth of an acre of land be the same more or less and has thereon a barn the other half thereof was and is a part of said dower and the said eighth of an acre is bounded as follows to wit on the west or southwest by said dower on the south or southeast by the road leading from the harbor to Lunenburg and on all other points on land late of Wallis Little deceased with all the privileges and apurtanances thereto belonging …  the twentieth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven … in the presence of Luther Lawrence and Henry Hoar … before me Luther Lawrence Justice of the Peace. — Middlesex Co. Oct 7, 1828.

Sure enough, the property was in Townsend.  Eli was listed as a carpenter.  Since I have a record that Eli made coffins and was paid by the town (2), this is really fitting my Eli Baldwin.  Another clue is that the land was on the road from “the harbor” (that is, near Harbor Pond) to Lunenburg, which is near the area I have identified for Eli’s in-laws, Isaac and Lucy Spaulding.

The location (map below courtesy of Google Maps) might be the road I have marked in red.  In an 1875 map, there is a “J. Durant” nearby (which could be the remaining Durant property, since the widow was only selling a portion of her dower).

townsend map

Eli married Polly Spaulding in Townsend on 28 May 1829.  Daughter Catherine was born in 1831 (birth registered in Shirley (1)) and son Edward (my gg-grandfather, birth date from 1860 census only) in 1833.  The property purchased may just be a workshop, or a workshop and home, but only a barn is specifically mentioned.

I would say at this point, the deeds are very likely to be my Eli Baldwin, but I don’t think it is proved.

Looking at the Sale Deed

In 1831 Eli and Polly sold the property.  Polly’s presence on this deed makes me now quite certain that this is my family.  It’s sad to think of them selling the property, when I have no record of a subsequent purchase, and Eli died in 1833.   Book 307, p. 531-2:


Know all men by these presents that I Eli Baldwin of Townsend in the County of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Carpenter, of Townsend,  in consideration of one hundred dollars paid by James L. Walton of said Townsend, Esquire, the receipt whereof I hereby acknowledge do hereby give grant sell and convey unto the said James L. Walton his Heirs and Assigns the following parcels of Real Estate situated in said Townsend Harbor, so called, and bounded as follows, to wit: The first piece containing one eighth of an acre more or less with a part of a house on the same, bounded southerly on the road, Westerly, Northerly and Easterly on land and house of James Wilson, Esquire.  The second piece contains one acre more or less, and bounded Southerly on the road Westerly on land of Joseph Stearns, Northerly on the Mill Pond, Easterly on land of James Wilson, Esquire. – The last described piece has a barn on the same, meaning by this deed to convey all the real estate conveyed to me by Abigail Durant by her deed dated the twentieth day of June A.D. 1827 and recorded in the Registry of Deeds for the County of Middlesex Book 283, Page 478 for a particular description reference may be had to said deed.  – the above Real Estate is subject to a Mortgage deed to said Abigail Durant for the sum of two hundred dollars, about the twenty eighth day of October A.D. 1827 or whenever the same may be dated.  …  In witness whereof the said Eli Baldwin and Polly wife of the said Eli in token of her full release of dower in said premises have hereunto set our seals this twenty eighth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty one.  …  Eli Baldwin (seal)  Polly Baldwin (seal)  [Witness] Paul Gerrish, Asa W. Baldwin.  [October 29, 1831]

"The Mill Pond at Townsend  Harbor, Townsend, Massachusetts" from an old postcard

“The Mill Pond at Townsend Harbor, Townsend, Massachusetts” from an old postcard

I expect that the witnesses Paul Gerrish and Asa W. Baldwin are significant, although I don’t yet know who they are.  I am not familiar with the Durants, but I expect we have no connection to the buyer, James L. Walton.

Now I can see there was part of a house included in the property, and that there was a mortgage.  This must have been where Eli brought his bride Polly after their marriage in 1829. The property was sold in October, 1831 and their first child, Catherine, was born in late December, 1831, in Shirley(1).  Shirley is the next town, just south; I wonder if they were with family, or renting. Perhaps a child would not have fit into the living arrangement on the property described in these deeds.  These deeds have moved my understand of Eli and Polly’s brief and perhaps troubled marriage further along.

Next Steps

  • Investigate all names mentioned on the deeds and compare them to the probate records I have.  I recognize the name Paul Gerrish but I cannot find it in Edward or Polly’s probate records.
  • Compare the property boundaries further to any existing maps; look at the probate record cited for the Durants for a further description.
  • Look at the many Spaulding deeds to learn more of their exact location and story; Polly grew up nearby.
  • Investigate (Eli’s father) Abiel Baldwin’s  deeds.
  • Continue to explore Middlesex County deeds and also many deeds in Norfolk County (Wrentham).
  • Save the deeds used to my own files.


(1) Vital Records of Shirley Massachusetts to the Year 1850. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1918. p. 14 “Baldwin, —-, d. Eli, Dec 29, 1831, B.R.”

(2) Hallowell, Henry C., ed.  Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts, Town Records to 1850 with Marriage Intentions to 1873 and Cemetery Inscriptions.  Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1992, p. 464.

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"The Falls, Harbor Pond, Townsend, Massachusetts" from an old postcard.

“The Falls, Harbor Pond, Townsend, Massachusetts” from an old postcard.

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While preparing for a business trip to Louisville, Kentucky, I was surprised to discover that the Sons of the American Revolution Library was just down the street from my hotel.  I have recently found some evidence that individuals in my “new” lines of my grandfather’s Baldwin and Spaulding ancestors served as Massachusetts Minutemen during the Revolutionary War, and I was eager to see if I could learn more.

Sons of the American Revolution Library, 809 W Main St, Louisville

The Library

The Library moved two years ago to a location on West Main Street’s “Museum Row” – a neighborhood filled with museums, school buses, families, and a surprising amount of statuary.   If you are ever looking for the library, it’s impossible to miss because it’s right across the street from the Louisville Slugger factory and museum and there is a giant, and I mean giant, baseball bat in front of that building.  So, look for the giant bat.  Eventually, the SAR hopes to fill the rest of the building they’re in with a museum of their own.  I think that’s a wonderful idea.

As I said, you can’t miss it

I emailed the head of the library, Michael Christian, in advance to make sure the library would be open during normal hours that week and to ask him if he would mind if I took some pictures.  He said it was fine.

I managed to visit the library on Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning.  Admission is $5 for non-members.  The receptionist was very nice and showed me a locker for my belongings.  I brought in only a notebook and my camera.  Inside, I met Mr. Christian and he gave me a tour and we talked about the research I was doing.

The books are neatly arranged on two floors

The library did not disappoint.  It’s quite new, of course, but above and beyond that it has a clean, orderly, uncluttered atmosphere unusual in a genealogy library.  The collection of books is focused on American history, genealogy, and local history. Many sets of books that I had seen elsewhere just looked better at the SAR Library thanks, I suspect, to a significant amount of re-binding which kept the books in excellent shape.  Pretty much all areas of the country are covered but I never ventured past the New England section.  There were compiled military indexes, such as the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.

The Rhode Island section of the local history books

There were far more family genealogies than I expected.  I welcomed the chance to find something privately published that I may not have seen before; there could be clues in such a book.  That didn’t really happen, except for one manuscript about the Lampheres that I had previously only seen online.

There were some resources available on the computers, and I looked up SAR applications related to people in my family.  I found four that I wanted to see, and the microfilm was brought to me.  The microfilm equipment was quite nice, by the way.  I paid for the pages I printed.

What I Found

My grandfather Miles Baldwin had a grandfather named Edward Baldwin.  The people on the list below are Edward Baldwin’s great-grandfathers from northern Middlesex County, Massachusetts.  This is what I have seen about my Massachusetts Militia ancestors:

John Emery (1753-1828) of Townsend, Mass.  From SAR application #55064:

  • Private in Captain James Hosley’s company of minute men, Col. William Prescott’s regiment, who marched to Cambridge on the alarm of April 19, 1775.  Service, 9 days. [note:  on that date, the Battles of Lexington and Concord began the Revolutionary War; called by Emerson “the shot heard round the world.”]
  • Private in Captain Henry Farwell’s Company, Col. William Prescott’s regiment, enlisted April 25, 1775.  Service, 98 days.
  • Private in Capt. Zachariah Fitch’s company, Col. Samuel Brewer’s regiment, enlisted August 23, 1776, discharged September 30, 1776.  Service, one month, nine days.
  • Corporal in Capt. John Minot’s Company, Col Josiah Whitney’s regiment; arrived at Rhode Island May 10, 1777; discharged July 9, 1777, service, two months, ten days.
  • No address given, but the company was raised in Townsend and nearby towns,  Third Corporal in Capt. Aaron Jewett’s company, Col. Job Cushing’s regiment, enlisted July 27, 1777; discharged August 29, 1777.  Service, one month, 10 days.
  • Private in Capt. James Hosley’s company of volunteers, Col. Jonathan Reed’s regiment, enlisted September 26, 1777; discharged November 2, 1777.  Service, one month, 15 days.

Benjamin Spaulding (1743-1832) of Townsend, Mass.  (page 108 of  The Spalding Memorial by Samuel Spalding, the standard Spaulding/Spalding genealogy, mentions that he was a school teacher, and three of his daughters also followed that profession).  From Mass. Soldiers & Sailors of the RW, vol. 14, p. 686:

  • Sergeant, Capt James Hosley’s co of Minutemen, Colonel William Prescott’s regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775, to Cambridge; discharged May 4, 1775; service, 18 days, reported returned home.

David Baldwin (1734-1824) of Billerica, Townsend and Pepperell, Mass.  Appears in SAR application #87616:

  • Private, Capt. William Greenleaf’s co., Col. Job Cushing’s Regt.; enlisted Sept 3, 1777, discharged Nov 22, 1777, service, 3 mos. 7 days.  Roll dated Lancaster.  Private, Mass. Militia.

Reuben Gashet/Gasset/Gaschet (1754-1822) of Hopkinton, Westborough and Townsend, Mass.  From Mass. Soldiers & Sailors of the RW, vol. 6, p. 304-5:

  • Private, Capt. Seth Morse’s co., Major Genl Ward’s regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775; service, 5 1/2 days
  • Private, Capt Moses Wheelock’s co., Col. Jonathan Ward’s regt.; muster roll dated Aug 1, 1775; enlisted April 24, 1775; service 3 mos. 15 days, also, company return [probably Oct. 1775]
Next Steps
  • Continue to search and evaluate the Mass. Soldiers and Sailors volumes (which are available online), where most of the data used in these SAR applications is from.  Chart the regiments and units mentioned.
  • Follow up on another source mentioned in a SAR #15669 concerning John Emery:  “Rev. Rolls, Mass. Archives, vol. 12, p. 115, vol. 19, p. 177.”  The Massachusetts State Archives is located in Dorchester.
  • Many pre-1970 SAR applications are now found on Ancestry.com so I can continue to access them.
  • Likewise Ancestry.com also houses some Revolutionary War rolls and I will continue to explore them.
  • Mr. Christian made a good suggestion about exploring town histories that include military information.  One such book that I have used is Sawtelle’s History of the Town of Townsend.
  • I believe the only soldier mentioned here who got a pension (it went to his widow) was John Emery.  I will continue to investigate pension records on Fold3.com and other places.
  • Continue reading two books that are throwing a lot of light on this subject:  “1776” by David McCullough and “The Minutemen and Their World” by Robert A. Gross.

Just a little more proof and this guy will be my ancestor!

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drawing from Edward Eggleston A First Book in American History (New York: American Book Company, 1889) 117

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I have recently visited Newton, Massachusetts to learn more about my great-grandmother Bessie Blanche (Martin) Baldwin.  Bessie was born about 1870 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  Her family appears in the Canadian 1871 and 1881 census.  I knew that in 1892 she married my great grandfather Miles Baldwin and they had two children in Newton (my grandfather Miles Jr in 1893 and his younger brother Blanchard in 1897).  Two days after Blanchard’s birth, she passed away.  The cause of death was cancer of the stomach.  As you might expect, we knew little or nothing of Bessie and her life when I started genealogy.

Today, I wanted to follow up on something very intriguing I found when the Massachusetts Town Records first appeared on Ancestry.com a few months ago:

Bessie’s application for a marriage license in 1887, covered over by a parental permission slip

I found this marriage license application while searching under her father’s name, Marsden Martin.  A slip of paper with Marsden Martin’s signature was covering a marriage license application.

The slip read:

Newton, Aug. 8th 1887     I Marsden Martin parent of Bessie Martin hereby give my consent for her marriage to Aubry James Lyman.    In presence of   May Martin                —  Marsden Martin

I had looked around online for details of Aubry James Lyman — he appeared to marry again around 1892, the same as Bessie, and never had any children.  He died fairly young.  If they had married, they must have divorced.  I was intrigued with what a divorce record might tell me.

I was able to get to the Newton city hall today.

Newton City Hall

Inside the City Hall

The clerk’s office was on the first floor.

The Clerk’s office and Archives

I asked the clerk for the original of the page I showed above, so I could look underneath the permission slip.  She looked Bessie up in the index book and card file, and was mystified about why she didn’t find the record.  The absence of those things implies there was no marriage.  When she realized she was looking at an “Intentions” page, she said she would try to find that book, but it might be in storage since there was very little call for Intentions records (just marriages).  Fortunately, she was able to find the Intentions book and I turned to page 338.

page 338 of the 1887 Intentions book

I was able to see what was underneath:

Marriage Intentions record

City Clerk’s office, Tuesday the 9th day of Aug. 1887.  Between Aubry James Lyman of Newton aged 21 years, by occupation a Carpenter.  He was born in Grand Pre, N.S. and was the son of Abraham D and Jane (Frazer).  This will be his first marriage.  And Bessie Martin (crossed out; Wolfville N.S.) of Newton aged 17 years.  She was born in Wolfville N.S. and was the daughter of Marsden and Marian (Chipley).  This will be her first marriage. 

[the mother’s name is incorrect here, it was Maria (Shipley).]

I still might have been mystified about this story if it were not for a penciled note on the bottom of the permission slip, which was visible in person, although not on the online copy:

Bessie left for British Provinces Aug 15 before ceremony could be performed.

She left for the British Provinces before the ceremony could be performed.  Really?  Whatever happened to “I’m so sorry, I’ve changed my mind”?  Leaving the country?  I suspect Bessie may have read too many dime novels or seen too many Julia Roberts movies.  So off she went.

I can’t find evidence of her journey so far, but perhaps I will someday.

The City of Newton has done a wonderful job of making original vital records and city directories available online.  But those things aren’t helping me at this point.

Some remaining questions

  • How did a 17-year old leave the country (and eventually return)?  was an adult with her?
  • Why was “May” the witness to the permission slip?  Sister May was 14 at the time.  Could the mother, Maria, possibly have been called May?
  • Is this really what it seems to be?  Or is there something here that I’m not aware of?
  • Grand Pre and Wolfville are adjacent towns in Kings County, Nova Scotia.  Did the young couple know each other there?
  • Where exactly in Newton were Bessie and her family residing at this time?
  • When exactly did the family come to Massachusetts?

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Bessie Martin Baldwin, 1870-1897

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Thanks to a lead about the birthplace of my great great grandfather Edward Baldwin, I have managed to discover a great deal of the Baldwin genealogy.  But I wanted to be sure that the link between the people I knew and the rather well-documented family I found was real.   Since my last post on finding the Baldwin line, I have managed to prove that this is the correct line.

Miles Edward Baldwin Sr, 1863-1926

Following up on a Lead

Miles Edward Baldwin, Sr was born in Belmont, New York around 1863.  His father was named Edward Baldwin, from Massachusetts.

When I discovered that Edward was from Townsend, Massachusetts, I used the standard Baldwin genealogy and other methods to narrow down Edward’s origin to one family.

The family I found was Eli and Polly (Spaulding) Baldwin.  Eli died at age 29 in 1833.  Polly passed away at age 33, in 1839.  This resulted in guardianship records, which showed that custody of Polly’s two children, Edward and Catherine, went to her brother, John Spaulding.  This obituary is from the (Amherst, New Hampshire) Farmer’s Cabinet, 20 September 1833.

Polly (Spaulding) Baldwin, 1806-1833

Since the guardianship records showed that John Spaulding had already been housing the family for five weeks at the time of death, and since 33 year old Polly had made a will, I suspect Polly had a serious illness that led to her death.

John Spaulding did not seem to have custody all the way to adulthood.  By 1850, 17-year-old Catherine was living with her aunt, Harriet Spaulding.  I cannot find Edward Baldwin in the 1850 census at all. I pick up with Edward’s life in 1860 in Belmont, New York, and 1863 or so when he became the father of my great grandfather, Mile Edward Baldwin.

How to be sure these two stories are connected with the same Edward Baldwin?

Looking at the Aunts and Uncles of Edward Baldwin

I turned to all the aunts and uncles of young Edward and Catherine, of which there are a total of 19 (children of Abiel and Lucy (Gassett) Baldwin, and Isaac and Lucy (Emery) Spaulding – one side note: of the 11 Baldwin siblings, the 8th was optimistically named “Finis” Baldwin; Finis ended up with 2 younger siblings, “Alpha” and “Henry”).   The Spauldings figured more prominently in the documents I found than the Baldwins.  Another connection that was hard to ignore is that Edward had 2 children and named them “Miles” and “Harriet”, the names of two of the Spaulding siblings.

An initial examination of all 19 siblings did not provide any actual proof of Edward’s relationship to them.  But two of the Spauldings, Miles and Harriet, died childless, and Miles was in fact a wealthy physician in nearby Groton.  It occurred to me that Miles or Harriet may have mentioned Edward in their wills; this possibility was made more interesting by the chance that Edward had already passed away before 1896 and 1907, when they died.  The standard Baldwin genealogy, from 1881, lists Edward as deceased (The Baldwin Genealogy, from 1500-1881 by Charles Candee Baldwin, p. 717).  So could Miles or Harriet have mentioned my great grandfather, Miles Edward, or his sister, Harriet?  That would be even better for my purposes.

There was an initial trip to the Middlesex Probate Court in Cambridge, Massachusetts to order the probate records of Miles, Harriet, John, and Daniel Spaulding.  Then came the day, last week, when the records were in and I was able to see them.

And Then I Found It

The intestate records of John and Daniel were not helpful. But Harriet and Miles’ probate records provided me with the evidence I needed.

  • Harriet Spaulding included Miles Edward and young Harriet in her will (probate record from 1907) – note, Miles Edward is referred to as Edward here, I believe he was usually called “Eddie” –  and note, young Hattie was married to Eugene Clapp:

Harriet’s will mentions Miles Edward and young Hattie

  • Miles Spaulding’s probate records include in his list of heirs-at-law from 1896:
    • Edward M. Baldwin, Newton, Mass., grandnephew
    • Harriet Clapp, Readville, Mass., grandniece

These match the locations of my great grandfather and his sister.  Now I can continue to learn about the Baldwin and Spaulding ancestors from Townsend, Mass.  So far, Edward Baldwin seems to be the great-grandson of four Revolutionary War soldiers.  I’m sure my grandfather didn’t know this; several generations of early deaths and moving around had closed the door on the Baldwin history for us.

What Else Was in the Wills?

The probate records held a few surprises for me.

Miles Spaulding provided for his widow and several relatives and made many gifts, for distribution after the widow’s death:

  • Lawrence Academy, Groton, Mass., $500
  • Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama, $1000
  • French-American College of Springfield, Mass., $5000 (I believe today this is American International College)
  • American Seaman’s Friend Society, New York, $1000
  • Congregational Sabbath-School and Publishing Society of Boston, $4000
  • American Missionary Association of New York, residuary legatee
  • Congregational Home Missionary Society of New York for “mountain work among the white people”, residuary legatee
  • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of Boston, residuary legatee

Tuskegee Faculty, 1897

Harriet Newell Spaulding, a single woman, left a legacy to her church (the Orthodox Congregational Church of Townsend) and a few other religious causes.  She mentioned Miles Edward and young Hattie and one or two other relatives. The remainder of her estate was set aside for use by her nephew, Wayland Spaulding, a minister living in New York City who apparently dedicated his life to serving the needy.   By 1910, there was a desire to sell her real estate in Townsend and use the proceeds for this charitable work.  A list of the names and locations of her possible heirs was included in that petition, and since they failed to object, the property was sold. They are:

  • Nancy S. Gilson, 164 Melvin Street, Cleveland, Ohio, sister
  • Randall Spaulding, MontClair, N.J., nephew
  • Wayland Spaulding, 411 W 115th Street, New York City, nephew
  • Hannah C. Guise, Gold Hill, Colo., niece
  • Doliver S. Spaulding, Mansfield, Mass., nephew
  • Francis W. Spaulding, ” , nephew
  • Martha A. Bartlett, ” , niece
  • Marshall D. Spaulding, San Diego, Cal, nephew
  • Mary S. Duff, Newcomerstown, Ohio, niece
  • Ella Jenvey, 601 Ann St., Parkersburg, W. Virg., niece
  • Sarah Fuller, Albia, Iowa, niece
  • Isaac Spaulding, Virginia Street, Marietta, Ohio, nephew
  • Harriet N. Congrove, ” , grand-niece
  • Elsie Hale, ” , grand-niece
  • Pearl Brabham, Fort Street, Marietta, Ohio, grand-niece
  • Florence Hale, unknown, grand-niece
  • John Ebert Hale, Crooksville, Ohio, grand-nephew
  • George P. Parker, East Pepperell, Mass., grand-nephew

But Wait, There’s a Picture!

Amazingly the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. owns an ambrotype of Harriet Newell Spaulding.

To see the ambrotype on the AAS website (I don’t have the rights to reproduce it here), follow this link AND SCROLL DOWN TO SPAULDING:


I feel fairly certain we are looking at my ggg-Aunt Harriet for the following reasons:

  • the picture is from Townsend, Mass
  • the person who gave it to the AAS is named Bartlett (Harriet had a married niece named Martha A. Bartlett; John’s daughter)
  • Harriet had no direct descendants to treasure the photo
  • the picture looks right for a woman who would have been 38 in 1860.

We don’t even have a picture of the younger Aunt Harriet, who was named for her.  This is wonderful.  If you are not entering your ancestor’s names into Google and selecting “Images” from the side menu, look at what you’re missing!

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Tuskegee photograph  CREDIT: “Faculty of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, at Tuskegee, Alabama, seated and standing on steps in front of building.” March 1897. Booker T. Washington Collection, Prints and Photograph Division of the Library of Congress.

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Using the new Massachusetts Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988 on Ancestry.com has, in one evening, turned up a lot of good information for me.  Admittedly, coverage is not complete, but the thing I like is that these are the original town records, not the transcribed records held more centrally by the state.  I have noticed handwritten notes near some records (like permission for a minor to marry) and some extra data that did not make the transcriptions.

Here are 5 things I discovered in an evening:

  • From the 4059-page Newton records, I found my uncle Blanchard Baldwin’s corrected birth record.  His first name, the slightly edited names of his parents, and a note had been added in a darker pen, saying that the updates were done on April 9, 1914.   That may have been when Blanchard joined the Navy. I’m sure the original birth record was incomplete because his mother died the next day.  It must have been a chaotic time.
  • My great-grandparent’s marriage record (ok, nothing new here, but my family might like to see it):

residence ... occupation

place of birth ... names of parents

  • Evidence that the “Grandma Ross,” who was my grandfather’s grandmother (he always referred to her maiden name as Spaulding) is the same Catherine Ross that was the mother of William Blackstone Bennett, Anna Jean Bennett, and Hattie Baldwin (they all listed her maiden name as “Youngs” in their own marriage records), since in her (third) marriage license, to Hiram Ross, she gives her maiden name as Youngs:
  • Catherine's portion of the marriage record to her third husband, Hiram Ross. Note that her maiden name is listed as Youngs and her parents are listed as "unknown" - I wonder why?

  • A death record for Aunt Hattie, who died in Wayland, Mass in 1933.  This record had eluded me before; I didn’t even have a death date.  Her mother is listed as Catherine Young … were my grandfather, and HIS father, the only people who thought her maiden name was Spaulding?
  • The second half of Hattie’s death record contained something I’ve been searching for since pretty much the first week I started genealogy – the origin of my mother’s family, the Baldwins.  Hattie’s death record shows that her father, Edward Baldwin, was born in Townsend, Massachusetts.  If it’s true, this is the biggest discovery made I’ve made in a long time.

    THIS IS THE BIG FIND - a place of birth for Edward Baldwin

  • As you can imagine, I moved on quickly to the Townsend records.  First I checked the map – Townsend is at the northern border of Massachusetts, north of Worcester.  This is roughly in the section of the state where I thought he might have been born.  Then I went through the Townsend birth records by index and page-by-page.  Then I checked several other places, and I don’t see a birth record.  However, I see Baldwins, I see at least one Miles family, and, more intriguingly, I see LOTS of Spauldings.  And it’s possible that Edward was located at some time in Townsend, or was born close by.  Despite a lack of a definite solution at this point I am thrilled, and have lots more to explore.

Tonight’s breakthrough was made possible by the work of Jay and Delene Holbrook, who compiled the Massachusetts records, over several decades, that now appear on Ancestry.  Thank you!

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