Brick Walls

For more than 60 years, I have been engaged in extensive research putting together my family tree and have published a website listing 14 of these ancestor trees and 6 descendent charts. Along the way, I have encountered numerous "brick walls", which are genealogical research problems that seem impossible to solve. While my website includes a list of these brickwalls, I have decided to supplement it with this blog. Some of the brick walls you will read here have been resolved, while others have not. My hope is that readers will perhaps have answers or possible different solutions to the ones I have presented.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The parents of Rebecca (Stevens) Avery

The Problem  One of the first brick walls I encountered when I began genealogy research was the identity of the parents of Rebecca Stevens, the wife of Abraham Avery.  Acccording to an Avery Genealogy (Averys of Groton, p.331), Rebecca and Abraham were married 27 Nov 1771 in Montville, New London Co., Connecticut.  (The only record that I have found of the marriage is in the Glastonbury records (Early Connecticut Marriages 5:104 (Glastonbury).  Barbour records for Montville do not begin until 1786.)

Abraham and Rebecca were living in Montville in 1779 when Abraham was a member of the church there, and its collector.  They moved to Glastonbury about 1787 where Rebecca died in 1792.

Both the Avery Genealogy and The History of Montville, p.51-52 named her grandfather, Rev. Timothy Stevens of Glastonbury, but neither named her parents.  The old FHL Ancestral File provided a birthdate of 1746 but did not name her parents.

The Error  Many years later (1992), I found Rebecca in Virkus' Compendium, 6:237.  There her birthdate was 1748 and her parents were named - Timothy Jr. (Rev. Timothy was Timothy Sr.) and Hannah.  The birthdate given matches the one on Rebecca's gravestone (Find-A-Grave: Green Cemetery, Glastonbury CT).

By that time, I should have known better, but I blithely assumed that Timothy Jr. and Hannah were Rebecca's parents and went on to gather information about them.  The Glastonbury Records (Barbour) mentioned two children, Timothy and Martha.

All went well until I got back home and was entering the information in my database.  I was stopped by an edit which pointed out that if Timothy died in 1746 and Rebecca was born in 1748, then Timothy couldn't be Rebecca's father.

Since the date I was using for Rebecca's birth had not been verified, I looked for other sources that might name Rebecca as Timothy Jr.'s child.  I located the probate for Timothy Jr (Digest Early CT Probate 3:658) which named wife Hannah and the two children, Timothy (who at age 3 chose his guardian) and Martha who was born after her father died.  One possibility I considered was that "Martha" became "Rebecca."  The only likely source to verify this possibility would have been a probate for Hannah or her second husband, Joseph Smith, but none could be found.

Starting Over  I backed up to grandfather Timothy.  His will named three sons, Timothy, Joseph and Benjamin (Digest Early CT Probate 3:579-80).  I could find no record of a daughter Rebecca for any of them.

An Important Clue  In Salt Lake City, with microfilms at hand, I decided to start hunting.  My first idea was to go through all of the Stevens probates in Hartford District and read any that were from Glastonbury and were after 1750.

The first one I came to was Epaphras Stevens (Hartford District, Connecticut #5213 - FHL film 1022253).  He died intestate, probably late 1777 (administrator's bond dated 31 Dec 1777).  Apparently he was not married.  He owned several parcels of land that were distributed to his brothers and sisters (Distribution 29 May 1779): William (administrator), Isaac, George, Benjamin, Alice Miller (wife of Matthew), and Rebekah Avery, wife of Abraham.  No clue was given regarding their parents, and the group of children did not match anything that I had for the grandchildren of Rev. Timothy Stevens.

Two Definitive Records for Rebecca's Father  The next likely step was to check the land records to determine how Epaphras obtained the land, in case he had inherited it.  Once into the land records, the first record I came to was a quit claim dated 13 May 1789 to William Stevens from Abraham and Rebecca Avery for "all the right title interest and demand that we or either of us have to the estate of Benjamin Stevens, late of Glastonbury." (Glastonbury CT Land Records Vol.10, p.291, FHL Film 1022252)

Back to the probate records to look for Benjamin Stevens.  And there he was, will #5211 dated 31 Mar 1764, probate 25 Jun 1767.  The will and the distribution both name: wife Dorothy (co-executor), eldest daughter Alice Miller, daughters Rebecca and Dorothy, Benjamin (eldest and co-executor), Epaphras, William, George and Isaac. (Hartford District, Connecticut #5211)

Rebecca's Mother  The Glastonbury Records (Barbour) show the 2 Feb 1737/8 marriage of Benjamin Stevens, son of Rev. Timothy, to Dorothy Olmstead, daughter of Nehemiah.  Children listed for Benjamin and Dorothy: Allice b. 23 Dec 1738, and her 5 Mar 1761 marriage to Matthew Miller; George, his 6 Feb 1783 marriage to Jerusha Goodrich.

Glastenbury for 200 Years p.54 lists an earlier marriage for Benjamin Stevens: an 11 May 1732 marriage to Deborah Dickinson, at Glastonbury.  Two children from this marriage are named: Benjamin b. 22 Jan 1734 and Deborah b. 5 Feb 1736.  No other mention has been found of Deborah Dickinson.  If the child Deborah was born in 1736/7, the mother probably died in childbirth, since Benjamin remarried almost exactly one year later.  No other mention has been found for the child Deborah.

Summary  Since her birth is clearly well after the date of Benjamin's second marriage, Rebecca was the daughter of Benjamin Stevens and Dorothy Olmstead.

Go to Rebecca Stevens in the Richardson-Rand Tree

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