It’s an important lesson. Don’t throw away the “extra” wives and husbands.
For lo, these many years, I haven’t paid much attention to ancestors’ wives and husbands except “mine.” Sure, I’m interested to know which mom or dad to pair up the youngsters with, and where “my” wife or husband was chronologically, but often I haven’t been interested in more than that.
For example, ancestor Benjamin Eddy (Samuel, John, William) of Watertown and Oxford, Mass., was married three times — to Abigail Holden in 1707, to Grace Holden in 1713, and to Elizabeth Phillips in 1716.
His children were Grace, born to second wife Grace; and Jonathan (not the one from Eddington), Elizabeth, Jonas, William and William born to third wife Elizabeth Phillips. My Elizabeth Eddy married Jacob Comins.
So what makes one of the other spouses really useful?
I found out when a distant cousin sent me copies of both of his ancestor’s marriage certificates. One certificate listed the twice-married ancestor as having been born in Canada. The second marriage certificate, pertaining to the “extra” spouse, gave the ancestor’s birthplace as Prince Edward Island. Wow, that is helpful information. It’s a lot easier to search one province than the whole country.
In my own family, Sumner Robinson Bennett’s parents were David Bennett and Lucy Clark, both my ancestors. They married in 1820 in Sumner. The Bennett manuscript (probably by Frank Keniston), available at Maine State Library and at Guilford Memorial Library, confuses my David Bennett, son of Isaac Bennett of Gloucester, Mass., with David Bennett, son of Capt. John Bennett, Isaac’s brother. The same error is available in the Family Trees on ancestry.com.
But David’s second marriage certificate, a “delayed return” record for his May 4, 1864, wedding to Lydia Herring in Guilford, confirms that he was the son of Isaac Bennett and Margaret (Noble) of Cape Ann, Mass. Lydia L. Herring is listed as the daughter of B. Loring and Lydia (Haskell) of New Gloucester. It was the second marriage for both.
As it happens, I also have a Bible record giving my David’s birth date as Sept. 3, 1794, making him Isaac’s son. John Bennett’s son David was born Sept. 15, 1797.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that a “new” piece of information on a vital record will turn out to be useful. David and Lydia’s marriage certificate claims that Margaret Noble was born in Richmond, Va. That would be new information among my many New Englanders, indeed.
Rather, I still think it likely that Margaret descended from the Thomas Noble family of Westfield, Mass., though I don’t find her in the family history. As it happens, Richmond is only 20-25 miles from Westfield. I think the “Va.” reference was a simple error on the part of Guilford town clerk David R. Straw Jr.
On another subject, I hope you saw the BDN front-page story on St. Patrick’s Day about Devil’s Half-Acre in Bangor and the populations of Irish-born residents in the censuses of Bangor, Portland and Augusta.
Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.