President’s Message for July 2022

The first week of July always greets us with celebrations around the founding of the United States and the hot and sultry Florida weather. While I enjoyed the celebrations, especially our neighborhood fireworks show, I am definitely ready for some cooler weather. In the mean time I’m hibernating in my house while working on genealogy.

One of the tasks I took on this month was straightening out the ancestry of an Abel Partridge of Ward, Massachusetts, whom most genealogists recorded as the son of Eli Partridge and Rachel Sheffield who resided in Medway, Massachusetts and Chesterfield, New Hampshire. I found however, that he wasn’t their son, he was the “supposed” son of Abel Partridge and Hannah Cheney of Medfield, Massachusetts. In this instance the “supposed” is how this child was listed in the published vital records of Medfield, Massachusetts, and it implies he was born out of wedlock. Worn, torn, and mutilated, by 1850 the original Medfield vital record books usefulness were nearing the end. Yet the original records would be copied three times over the next 50 years, first by a town clerk in 1850 who was able to consult the books before they were singed, then by two separate committees, one in 1876 created after a fire at the town hall almost burned the records, and the final in 1903, which resulted in the publishing of the Medfield Vital Records “tan book.” As I reviewed these multiple copies doing that “reasonably exhaustive search of all records” we’re suppose to do when conducting genealogical research, I was reminded again how handwriting can be interpreted differently by researchers. That makes genealogy more difficult sometimes then it should be. Case in point, Abel Partridge.

Abel Partridge Family in Auburn Records - cropped
Record of Abel’s family as found in the official Auburn Massachusetts vital record book

I didn’t find it difficult to prove by the preponderance of evidence that Abel and Hannah were the parents of the Abel from Ward. I was able to use the records of the Cheney family in Massachusetts which pointed to them having a presence in Ward, as well as a familial connection to Sarah Stearns, Abel’s wife. It was a death record printed in another of these Massachusetts “tan books” which caused a problem that needed resolving, this time the one containing the Auburn (formerly Ward) Massachusetts vital records. Did the official vital records publication make a mistake? The answer is yes, and I am able to prove it! They misread a “Mr. Partridge” as “Mrs. Partridge” and then made a cardinal sin by substituting the given name for Mrs. Partridge for the death record in the published tan book. Look at the image above from the original record. How have researchers handled this dastardly error? Why they reported she had died in 1826 just a week after her husband. Nobody has bothered to check the original! Compounding that issue was a marriage record in the same published manuscript which said that a Sarah Partridge had married David Hosmer in 1828. How did researchers handle that? One of two ways, both wrong. They forced that square peg into a round hole! They either attached that marriage record to the younger daughter, Polly, or they created a third child, Sarah. Nobody thought to challenge the record! Not even me… I hang my head in genealogical shame.

It was while I was reading the probate record for Abel Partridge of Ward that I realized “Houston, we have a problem.” Either Sarah Partridge was still alive after her own reported death, or somebody was scamming the family out of their property and signing her name. During the administration of probate it was found that Abel was insolvent and over the next year everything was sold to pay off the debt he owed, yet the administrator was the man he owed all the money to. It had me thinking of a great theft! But no, peppered in the probate record was Sarah Partridge’s several signatures including those after she had supposedly died. On the final signature in 1828, after her 2nd marriage, she signed Sarah Hosmer. That signature was signed to a declaration filed by the three surviving family of Abel Partridge of Ward, stating they were satisfied with the administration of the estate and thought it was just and true.

My genealogical journey this month should serve to you as a reminder for conducting that “reasonably exhaustive” research we talk about… you never know what you’ll turn up.

During this month’s general meeting we’ll be back to discussing DNA. Sharon Clark Driscoll will share how she’s used DNA in her genealogical research to prove that an individual was her ancestor as well as discuss genetic health risk reports that can be purchased after your DNA is tested. See you at the meeting, July 19, 7pm at the Fernandina Beach Branch Library. Be there or be square!

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