Monday, March 31, 2014

James and Ketiran Thornton

Yesterday I was working on my article about William Thornton, who I believe to be my 4th great grandfather.  His parents are said to be James and Elizabeth Jenkins Thornton.  Nothing is known about Elizabeth other than her name.  In 1740 when James sells some land in Massachusetts his wife had to cosign the deed.  She was unable to write so some else wrote her name down and she made her mark.  Her name was the very unusual Ketiran.  Elizabeth had presumably died and James had remarried.

I was playing around with lists of children and came up with the following:

maternal father         maternal mother  mother
paternal father          paternal mother   father

Matthew/Hannah Jack (Andrew&Mary)Agnes/John WasonWilliam/Dorcas Little (Thomas & Jane)
William/ Elinor Unknown
Hannah/William Wallace (John&Annis)Ester/James Ferguson






Dorcas (d/o elinor)



Okay, so in colonial times, many people used very distinctive naming patterns for their children. The first son was usually named for the father's father, the second son for the mother's father.  The first daughter was named for the father's mother and the second for the mother's mother.  Then the parents would name children after themselves.

If the children of James Thornton all shared the same mother and her name was Elizabeth, her name is conspicuously absent. Each of James' children named a son James.  Most of the children named a child for themselves and their spouse.  Only William named a daughter Nancy, said to be the name of their grandmother Thornton. (Error note: William did not have a daughter named Nancy, this was a transcription error)  There were four daughters named Mary and three named Catherine.  Agnes named her first daughter Catherine.  What if Ketiran was really a mangled spelling of Katherine?   This makes a lot of sense to me.

Unlike these days when all manner of made up names are used, the folks of the 18c. used well known names. Ketiran is not a name seen anywhere else.  What do you think?


NEWS FLASH 24 July 2015: I have found some new information on Katherine Thornton!!!

Yesterday I was reading the deed of sale in which James Thornton's wife was named. Her name was listed three times, in the space of four or five lines. Each time the name is spelled differently. Here they are:

I think that it is pretty clear from the first two instances, her name was Katherine. Only in the last one is it spelled Ketiran.  I have run these three names by many people and they all agree that the intended name must have been Katherine. I also believe that it is highly likely that the mother of at least some if not all of James' children was Katherine. If Katherine was not their mother, then I would put a bet on the Mother's name being Mary. The total lack of grandchildren named Elizabeth, is to me, a strong indication that James' wife was not an Elizabeth.

Okay! Found her name once more in a deed and I think this one, if you aren't already convinced, will seal the deal.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Honored Father, William Thornton

My grandfather, Paul Thornton, was a great lover of history.  He had a copy of Charles Thornton Adams biography of Matthew Thornton and his family. Matthew Thornton was a doctor, soldier, statesman from the Colony and State of New Hampshire.  This has always been a point of pride for our family, our connection to the American Revolution. I believe that the book may have originally belonged to my great grandfather John Clark Thornton, I have it now.  He, John, is mentioned in the book as a descendant of Matthew's brother Samuel Thornton and he attended meetings of the Thornton Family Association in Boston along with his first cousin Dudley Clark Thornton.  

The Thornton line went from John to Samuel (3), Samuel (2),  Samuel (1) to James Thornton, immigrant. Matthew, the third child of James and Elizabeth Thornton, is said to have been born in Ireland around 1714. Samuel was the sixth child and fifth son and is said to have been born after their immigration to the new world, 1720 is usually thrown out as the year of his birth. His place of birth is said to have been possibly in Wiscasett, Maine. His death too is uncertain said to be around 1798. A cloud of uncertainty seems to hang over Samuel, but my genealogy motto is; if it was easy, it wouldn't be any fun. I am gonna find this guy.

Starting with the Adams manuscript, I know that Samuel was married twice and had 22 children, eleven by each wife.  The names of his two wives are of course unknown as are the first set of eleven children.  The second set of children are: Samuel (2), Reuben, Sarah, Abraham, Catherine, Dorcas, Eleanor, William, Sumner, Hannah and one unknown. Samuel was born in 1775 and Dorcas in 1779, both in Thornton, NH. The date of birth for the remainder of the children is not known. I know records are often missing or incomplete but how do two wives and 20 children disappear from any records. (FYI if you think Samuel Thornton married Mary Ann Craven in Maine, you are wrong. That marriage took place in 1878)  So, the question is where to start looking for Samuel and his gang of offspring.

If Samuel was born in America, then he must have spent the first twenty or so years of his life with his father. A search of the history of Pelham, founded by his father, shows that he was there at least until 1746, when the town paid him for some work he had done on it's behalf. That's all for Pelham. There is no record of a marriage or children taking place there.  That doesn't mean it didn't happen, just that no record survives. Where to look next.

Again, turning to the manuscript, Adams tells us that Samuel lived in both Campton, NH and Hatley, Stanstead, Quebec, Canada. I have read through the Campton, NH records and there is no Samuel paying taxes there prior to 1798. Hatley, Canada was founded sometime after 1790.  In the book, "Forest and Clearings", a history of Stanstead and genealogy of the first settlers, there is no mention of Samuel. The land was covered by a vast forest and the work of turning it into farmland was arduous.  If Samuel was an early settler in Hatley he would have been over 70 years old. This seems a bit much, even if he was in the best of health, for a man of his age.

Geez, this is harder than I thought, Samuel (1) seems almost nonexistent and Samuel (2) seems to have sprung right out of the ground. A search of other family trees on and other websites reveals that a large number of people seem to believe that Samuel (1) left New England for the South.  Many trees have him in Abbeville, South Carolina married to a Mary Simonton. This Samuel died in July of 1797. Hum.

Meanwhile, I decided to hook up with the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).  In the process of looking for ancestors I have found a ton who have the qualifications for a DAR patriot. When I met with the Registrar I told her I wanted to use my ancestor Enoch Rowell as my patriot. After looking at my tree and at her DAR records she said, "nope it would be way easier to use SAMUEL THORNTON". What!!!! I mean, what does the DAR know about Samuel that I have been unable to find.

The DAR records say that Samuel (1) lived in Lanesborough, MA and served in the militia.  They have a land deed for him dated 1790. I'm not so sure about this story either.  I tried to track down this Samuel.  It seems that he had a brother Benjamin who also lived in Lanesborough, as well as two daughters, Ann and Bathsheba.  Nothing about this sounds right.  Bathsheba, surely if Samuel had a daughter with that name, someone would have remembered it.  Hum, further research shows that this Samuel left Lanesborough and moved to New York sometime after 1790.  I don't think this is my guy. A lot of members don't think so either.  They think he is one of those Rhode Island Thorntons. (still, he got me into the DAR)

That's it. I'm tired of Samuel (1), he doesn't play fair.  I decide to concentrate on Samuel (2) and the rest of the Thorntons.  I know that Samuel (2) and his wife Katherine Baker were married in Campton in 1802 according to the Adam's Manuscript.  I search the 1800 federal census and there he is, living in Campton. Also in Campton is John Durgin, future husband of Samuel's sister Dorcas.  Yea a small victory, but not much more. I decide to run down the Bakers, Katherine's folks.

Katherine's father was Benjamin Baker.  He and his brothers settled in Campton, NH after the war. His brother Moses Baker was a fairly well to do guy who was very involved in town business. Benjamin died in 1790 when Katherine was only 11.  I checked the probate index to look for Benjamin and in doing so I noticed that a William Thornton of Thornton, NH also died in 1790. According to the index he left a widow and three small children under to age of 14.  The names of the wife and children really caught my eye.  They were: Abraham, Catherine, Sarah and Eleanor.

Remember the list of Samuel's (1) children:  Samuel, Reuben, Sarah, Abraham, Catherine, Dorcas, Eleanor, William, Sumner, Hannah and unknown. The wheels are churning now.  What if Samuel and Dorcas were the children of this William as well. William was the forth son of James Thornton and if Matthew was born in 1714 then William was probably born around 1718-1722. He married in Pelham, MA and then moved his family to Dublin, NH.  Supposedly the family left there because of Indian raids and joined his sister Agnes Thornton Wasson in Schenectady, NY.

William and his wife, supposedly Dorcas Little (another name on my list),  raised his first family in New York, their children included William Jr., John, Matthew, James, Molly and Thomas.  William is also on the list of Samuel (1) supposed children.  William (1) and his sons William (2) and Matthew returned to New Hampshire prior to the start of the American Revolution. His wife, Dorcas, died in 1763, and it seems he remarried either right before he left New York or just after he arrived in New Hampshire. I wrote a blog post about my theory that William might be the father of Samuel (2) and Dorcas, but I couldn't find any proof.

Do I give up, no way, I am nothing if not dogged in my pursuit of father of Samuel (2), no way am I throwing in the towel on this one.  So, last week there I was eating my lunch at work and doing a little ancestor digging as I munched through my Lean Cuisine.  I was on (great site if you know how to really use it) checking to see if I could find Samuel (1) probate records.  I was looking at Grafton County and choose the records from 1798, the year many say he died.  Gee, there's only 1100 pages of probate records to dig through, these record have not been indexed so it's a real slog to get through them.  I start jumping through the records looking for the name Thornton and finally serendipity strikes.  I click on a page and what jumps out at me, three signatures: Samuel Thornton, Dorcas Thornton and William Thornton.  Well, well, well, what do we have here!

What I have stumbled into is the 1798 probate of the estate of William (1) Thornton.  Although he died in 1790 his estate was never probated.  His wife Eleanor was made his executor in 1790 right after his death. Then in 1797 or 1798 she remarried, her new husband was Benjamin Avery.  The probate court then made the decision to appointed a new administrator of the estate and proceed with probate, and this brings me to the document which clinches the deal. The job was offered to William's son who declined to accept the role of administrator. The son writes,
This may certify that I have no desire to administer on the estate of my honored father, William Thornton witness my hand.  Samuel Thornton.

Yippee Ki-Yay!  Samuel Thornton was the son of William Thornton. On another page the court records all the debts against William's estate, this is signed on the back by his heirs, William Jr, Samuel and Dorcas Thornton.

Rather than be the end of this journey, it's only the beginning of another one, the pursuit of William Thornton. I can only hope he is as great a challenge than his brother Samuel.  So what happened to Samuel, maybe he did end up in South Carolina.

Are you a Thornton Cousin?  I'd love to hear from you, I am working on a family tree of all the descendants of James Thornton.

Related Posts:
James Thornton

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Samuel Thornton son of William Thornton, my Thornton Family Breakthrough

Today is a great genealogical day for me, possibly the best.  I have been struggling with my Thornton ancestry almost from the beginning.  According to everything I have read, my Thornton line descends from James Thornton, father of Matthew the signer of the Declaration of Independence, through his son Samuel. The line went:  James, Samuel (1), Samuel (2), Samuel (3), John, Paul, my father. My problem was finding any kind of documentation on Samuel (1). In one of my many posts on my Thornton ancestors I speculated that the real father of Samuel (2) was not Samuel (1) but rather his brother William.  Today, I believe that I have found the documents which prove this relationship.

While looking at the probate records from Thornton, New Hampshire, I checked the probate of William and there it was.  The document was one in which the heirs of William Thornton acknowledge receipt of something or other and it was signed by William's children: Samuel, Dorcas and William. Dorcas, who later became Dorcas Durgin, has long been believed to also be a child of Samuel (1).  Yipee! Samuel is the son of William. 

I will, of course, be posting much more about this discovery, but I was so excited by this finding that I had to put it into writing immediately.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thornton DNA Project

A few months ago I submitted a YDNA kit from my father to for testing.  I have been anxiously awaiting the results and they have finally arrived. We are descendants from a race of space aliens with a superior intellect. Actually we are just what I thought, a bunch of Brits, recently transplanted to the North American continent. 
Our haplogroup is R1b1a2, this group is found predominantly in France, England, Ireland, and Wales. In a comparison chart on the website of all Thornton's who have had their YDNA tested we fall into a unmatched category.  Interestingly, the Thornton's in Virginia and other southern states are mostly of a different group, I1 which ended up in Scandinavia. 
What I need is for Thorntons who claim descent from James Thornton of Ireland, the father of Matthew Thornton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, to have their DNA tested. There are some southern Thorntons who claim descent from Samuel Thornton, son of James, and brother of Matthew.   They think he migrated to the south and lived in South Carolina.  This is the same Samuel who we say is our ancestor and that he lived in New Hampshire with the rest of his family. 
A DNA test will not give you a list of ancestors but it can point you in the right direction.  If a southern Thornton thinks they're are part of the New Hampshire family a DNA test could prove it.  If you are a Thornton and have a few spare dollars, the Thornton DNA project could sure benefit from your DNA test.

Related Posts:
James Thornton
Samuel Thornton

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...