Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Mysterious Samuel Thornton

From Ireland to Massachusetts

My Thornton ancestors can be traced to James Thornton from Londonderry Ireland who in 1718 was part of a Scots Irish migration to America.  Landing first in Boston, the made their way up to Maine, returned to Massachusetts and settled in Pelham, MA and from there spread out across New England. The descendants of James Thornton were researched and published in a book by Charles Thornton Adams, published in 1905.  This book is the go to book for information about our Thornton relatives. 

Mysterious Ancestor

Very little is written about Samuel Thornton.  Charles Adams says that Samuel lived in Campton, New Hampshire and then in Hatley and Stanstead in Canada. It says he was married twice, neither wife is named.  It states he had 22 children, 11 by each wife.  Also given are a partial list of his children's names including:  Samuel (2), Reuben, Sarah, Abram, Dorcus, Eleanor, William, Sumner, Hannah and ?. And that's all he has to say for Samuel.  

Where are the missing children

It seems hard to believe that a man can have two wives and 22 kids and nobody knows anything about him. I did find his name in the Pelham, MA records, but only briefly.  Samuel (2) and Dorcus are the only children about which anything is known.  So, I chalked Samuel (1) down to an unsolvable mystery.  

Could the DAR be wrong

For some reason I got it into my head to try to join the DAR, The Daughters of the American Revolution.  I have plenty of "patriots" in my tree, men who fought in or aided the American Revolution.  I assumed that I could get in using Enoch Rowell, as he would be the easiest to prove. Imagine my surprise when the DAR genealogist told me that my best bet would be to use none other than Samuel (1) Thornton. 
According to the DAR Samuel is already a confirmed patriot.  He was born in 1720 in Maine and died 27 Jan 1796 in Lanesborough, MA.  His wife was said to be Mary Ann Craven, born in Penobscot, ME. I told her that I did not believe this to be correct information, that I had something different, but she insisted that the DAR information is 99.9% correct and that it had been reconfirmed in recent times.  Well, what do you say to that kind of confidence. She explained what documents I needed to provide to prove my relationship to Samuel.
Of course when I got home I looked up what I had on Samuel to compare it to her research. She said that his name was Samuel K. Thornton, so I google his name and Mary Ann Craven and lo and behold up pops  their marriage record in a Lincoln, Penobscot book.  Guess what, they were married October 26th 1878. Samuel K. was born in 1835, served in the Civil War and died an old man in 1908. Hum, I guess this is that 0.01% error.  I think Samuel K. Thornton just got ruled out.  
The genealogist also said that according to her records Samuel lived in Lanesborough, MA, and I did find him in a 1790 census of Berkshire, County.  I also found the names Samuel and Benjamin Thornton in a history of Lanesborough, they had both served in the Revolution according to it's author. I have looked at all the Revolutionary records on Fold3 and cannot find either of them. 

Could Charles Adams be wrong

I did find something interesting though and it got me really thinking that maybe the Thornton book by Charles Adams got it wrong. James Thornton, son of William, Samuel (1) brother, was born in Pelham in 1745 and moved to Schenectady, New York with his father. He married a woman named Antje Schermerhorn and had multiple children whose names include: Dorcus, Samuel, Abraham, Catherine, Mary, Margaret, William, and James.  This caught my eye because Samuel (1) was also said to have a Dorcus, William, Abraham and Samuel. 
Samuel, son of James, was born on Feb 3 1776.  Our Samuel was believed to have been born around 1775.  Is it possible that the father of Samuel (2) was really James Thornton and not Samuel (1)? It might explain why there is no information on Samuel (1) and his 22 children.  

could I be wrong

What do you think?  Comments welcome!  And what should I tell my DAR lady?  Do I just go ahead and join knowing that my "patriot" is likely an error! What a dilemma.