I am researching the family of my 6th great-grandfather Nathaniel Brown, who was in Framingham in 1761, and spent the remainder of his life in Sudbury, Massachusetts. This is the first half of the search. The next time I post about this, I expect to have formed an answer. What follows is how the search has gone so far.
First, go see Midge
The first thing that I did was to visit the Goodenow Library special collections room in Sudbury, Massachusetts with genea-blogger Midge Frazel of “Granite in My Blood.” Midge’s husband and I are 5th (?) cousins in the Parmenter line; by coincidence, the Parmenter brothers we are descended from, Elias and Ezra, married girls with the same last name, Eunice and Susannah Brown. So we share this search. Midge had located the correct names for Susannah’s parents: Nathaniel Brown and Elinor Hayden. There was pretty good evidence for the marriage and Elinor’s family tree. We consulted some books while we were there, including Descendants of Deacon John Parmenter, Proprietor of Sudbury, Massachusetts 1639, published by Pioneering Parmenters of America, 2009. The question was, who exactly was Nathaniel Brown.
Of course we wondered, could Susannah and Eunice be sisters. Both are listed as children of Nathaniel and Eunice Brown in the Sudbury “tan book” (Vital Records of Sudbury, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, published by the NEHGS, 1903) in the birth records section, on pages 25 and 27. In the 1850 federal census, they were apparently living next door to each other in Sudbury (page 82 of 105), both widows, aged 70 and 79. The parents are mentioned in the marriage records for each. So they certainly seem to be sisters. Coincidentally, I am also descended from a third sister, Abigail,
Brown was a common name in southern New England, so pinning down this Nathaniel Brown was not going to be easy. Midge found a candidate in Nathaniel Brown of Newton, Massachusetts, son of Thomas Brown and Abigail Cheney. The obvious things one would try first in the search for evidence – census records, vital records, town histories, cemetery records, newspapers and deeds – were raising more questions than answers.
As I waited around for the time to explore some probate and court records, I took stock of the situation. I also have some probate microfilm on order.
The things we knew
Nathaniel and Brown and Elinor Hayden were married 29 Dec 1761.
As best I have determined from the Sudbury town records, Nathaniel and Elinor (Hayden) Brown had the following children:
- Thadde (us?), no death record found
Looking at Elinor‘s family (names matching Elinor and Nathaniel’s children highlighted in green):
- parents: Uriah Hayden, Hannah (Jennings) Hayden. Siblings: Eunice, Moses, Abigail (2), Hepseba, Ephraim, Susannah, Jonas, Lydia, Uriah
This is a striking case of a mother naming the children after her parents and siblings.
Another solid piece of evidence is the sale of property in Sudbury from the estate of Elinor’s father, Uriah Hayden, to Nathaniel Brown in 1770. This included 60 acres, a house and barn and seemed to be the farm of Uriah Hayden prior to his death. The deed was recorded in 1784 in Sudbury, volume 88, pages 141 and 142. I was startled to see the name “Jonas Brown” in the deed but then recalled it was not recorded until 1784, when Nathaniel’s son was 19. Nathaniel paid Uriah’s sons Ephraim and Uriah, and the widow Hannah a price of 100 pounds. All the men are recorded as husbandmen (farmers).
This makes it appear that Nathaniel took over the Hayden farm fairly early in his marriage to Elinor. That sounds like something a person would do if they were a younger son, or didn’t have a father as they reached adulthood.
The questions we ask
Based on what’s here so far, a few possibilities for solving this appear:
- Who was Thaddeus named for? and how about Joel and Nancy?
- Could there be deeds telling more about Nathaniel’s activities in Framingham and Sudbury?
- Based on a marriage date of 1761, could Nathaniel possibly have participated as a soldier in the Revolutionary War?
- Could there be a guardianship record for Nathaniel as a child?
- Death record or probate for Nathaniel?
I wondered if the Newton, Massachusetts family would include a Thaddeus.
- These are the possible parents of Nathaniel Brown: Thomas and Abigail (Cheney) Brown. They were both born and married in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in 1737 Thomas purchased property in Newton from his father, Ebenezer, and the family relocated there.
- The children of Thomas and Abigail were: Aaron, Joseph, Thomas, Ebenezer, Abigail, Mary, Susannah, and Nathaniel (youngest).
While a few of the names overlap with Nathaniel and Elinor’s children, there is not a Thaddeus, Joel or Nancy to be found. So far, I am not coming up with enough evidence that the Nathaniel born to Thomas and Abigail in 1761 was indeed the Nathaniel who married Elinor Hayden. But the family includes enough matching names, and shows Nathaniel as a youngest son who might not have inherited from his father. So they are still in the running.
I tried searching for Revolutionary War records, first for Nathaniel Brown and then for a (hypothetical) Thaddeus Brown. “Nathaniel Brown” appears numerous times in the Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors books (vol. 2, p. 668) and the entry dated in Sudbury is likely to be him, at least. But Fold3.com does not show any records that seem likely to be Nathaniel. Similar searches for Thaddeus Brown show a resident of the town of Harvard in Worcester County, Massachusetts who served in the Revolutionary War and later obtained a pension. A Thaddeus Brown was born in Cambridge in 1746, son of William, and there were other Thaddeus Browns in eastern Massachusetts as well. Nothing seems to link to a brother Nathaniel, or a Thaddeus Brown old enough to be Nathaniel’s father.
There is a Middlesex County probate record for Nathaniel Brown of Sudbury in 1798, Case Number 3151. I have not seen this yet (I have ordered the microfilm from the FamilySearch Center), and for some reason I have not found his death in the Sudbury records. I cannot find a death record or date for Elinor, either. Her last child was born in 1786.
Early Massachusetts land records are available (although lacking an electronic index) at FamilySearch.org. Framingham, Sudbury and Newton are all in Middlesex County so I focused my research there. Other than the purchase of the Hayden property in 1770, the records I am finding do not seem certainly linked to this Nathaniel Brown. Surely, there must be one for the sale after his death in 1798.
- Look for land records from anywhere in Massachusetts that mention Nathaniel Brown among the heirs, selling a father’s property. That will take a while. Keep pursing the land records made on his property after his death.
- Examine the probate records for Nathaniel Brown when the microfilm arrives.
- Review the microfilm for a 1752 probate record naming a Nathaniel Brown in Cambridge which involves guardianship (when it arrives). Perhaps Nathaniel lost his family early, and so didn’t think of naming his children for those relatives. The early Middlesex probate index is here on Ancestry.com, or try this download here on FamilySearch.org.
- Look over the 1790 federal census for Sudbury and nearby towns, looking at the other Browns.
- Also seek any Thaddeus in Sudbury in the 1790 census.
- Keep trying to find any property Nathaniel might have owned in Framingham before his marriage (so far not finding any).
- Learn more about the Newton couple, Thomas and Abigail Brown. Look for a probate record for Thomas Brown of Newton; it may mention a location for son Nathaniel. If that fails, try to pursue the life of the Nathaniel Brown born to Thomas and Abigail of Newton – see if he can be eliminated.
- Talk to Midge again.
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