Case Study Followup: Rebecca, Wife of John Spur/r of Dorchester, MA

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might remember a five part case study I did back in August 2018. I was hurtled into frenzied activity because of one clue found in a book published long ago, digitized and in Google’s book collection.

Before I share that clue once again, I have to comment that when women’s maiden names are missing in my husband’s family tree, I accept it as part of the landscape challenge. All those Southern branches lived in many places were records either weren’t kept (like on the frontier with Daniel Boone) or lived in one of those many pesky burned counties.

On the other hand, I take great offense to unknown maiden name sin my own tree because my branches go way deep in colonial New England and then across the pond.

Each of those missing maiden names is a red flag being waved in front of the bull (me!)

Now that you understand my obsession, here is the clue that sparked my my part case study where I tried to prove or disprove that Rebecca, second wife of John Spur (1724-1781), was a Blackmer by birth:

Source: Google Books

No source was cited, but Rebecca’s maiden name was said to be Blackmer, not a common name, which is much better than Smith or Jones.

If you want to read all about my progress, or lack thereof, in that study, there were five parts:

Building a Case Study – William Blackmer, MA, 1600s – Part 1

Case Study: Was the Maiden Name of Rebecca, Wife of John Spurr, William King and Isaac Davenport, Blackmer? – Part 2

Case Study: Was the Maiden Name of Rebecca, Wife of John Spurr, William King and Isaac Davenport, Blackmer? – Part 3

Case Study: Was the Maiden Name of Rebecca, Wife of John Spurr, William King and Isaac Davenport, Blackmer? – Part 4

Case Study: Was the Maiden Name of Rebecca, Wife of John Spurr, William King and Isaac Davenport, Blackmer? – Part 5

The conclusion drawn from all that work was that there was no real evidence to support a case for Rebecca being a Blackmer. Yet, it bugged me that someone found something that pointed in that direction.

Not one to give up easily, I recently began thinking once again about Rebecca. She was somebody’s child. With most of my other brick walls, I’ve generally found one commonality – a life event or family situation, like early deaths of parents leaving orphans, a child born out of wedlock or a family that had few surviving children so was unusually small for the time period.

I didn’t know if that was the case with Rebecca or if I was just very unlucky and her marriage record was either never returned to the town clerk or was the one in a thousand that was lost somewhere.

In any case, I learned long ago that clues occasionally are sitting right under our researching noses, but we aren’t picking up on them. With that in mind, I decided it was time to taken another look at the Spur/r family.

First, we need to take a look at John Spur and his family. The Spurs were early settlers in Dorchester, Massachusetts, arriving in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600s.

John himself was a supporter of the American Revolution, although he died before seeing the establishment of the newly created United States of America. He did serve, though, at the very start of the war. He was a corporal in Col. Lemuel Robinson’s regiment in the company of Capt. William Holden, commanded by Lt. Preserved Baker, which mustered on the 19th of April 1775 – the Lexington Alarm.

John was also called gentleman in his estate administration, but his estate was insolvent. Probate records are often quite helpful in ferreting out family relationships and members of the FAN club. Not so much in John’s case.

Although I had looked at land records for John and Rebecca Spur in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, there wasn’t much of interest in them the first time around. Actually, there were only two pieces of land that they sold, in 1772 and 1773 and one of those sales was to John’s brother, William.

I decided to review the deeds once more, just in case I missed anything, and am I glad I did! I think I found the clue that broke down the brick wall surrounding Rebecca’s maiden name.

I hope you will leave a comment and give your opinion about my new theory.

Tomorrow, I will set out all the puzzle pieces that I believe will reveal Rebecca’s maiden name.


Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your Most Frustrating Brick Wall Problem

This week’s SNGF challenge from Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings has been issued!

1)  What is your most frustrating brick wall problem?  Tell us what you want to know and what you have found to date.

For me, it is the lady about whom I have been writing last week and this week – Susannah, the wife of Thomas Burnham of Ipswich, Massachusetts in the 1700s.

I followed up with the plethora of Susannahs and there is a bit more to come next week.

She is a particularly annoying brick wall because I have had some good success finding clues to unknown maiden names while pouring through land deeds, probate files and other court records and building out the FAN club of several other female (MNU) in my family tree. Susannah has proven to be quite elusive, much to my consternation!

I hope that you will follow my short series and leave a comment with any other suggestions you might have. I would so love to know who she was.

Thank you, Randy, for this week’s challenge. I look forward to your weekly SNGF challenges. 🙂


A Plethora of Susannahs To Research, Born 1674-1680 in MA

Last week, I threw out the theory that Thomas Burnham might have married Susannah Lee, daughter of Richard and Sarah Lee, who left Ipswich for Hartford County, Connecticut in the early 1700s. I tend to believe that this Susannah married Thomas Knowlton, but have not yet found definitive proof of that marriage, so Susannah Lee remains on the “possible” list.

Today, I will share the list of Susannahs born in Massachusetts between 1673 and 1680, found on American Ancestors in the vital records databases.

To begin the search, I’ve limited the focus to Essex County, where Ipswich is located, and Suffolk/Middlesex Counties, which include Boston, Watertown, Dorchester and Cambridge. Geographically, these towns are the closest to Ipswich, home of Thomas and Susannah (MNU) Burnham.

Essex County Births:
Susannah Marsh, of Samuel & Priscilla, Salem, 12 May 1680
Susannah Davis, of James & Elizabeth, Gloucester, 20 Nov 1676
Susannah Dutch, of John, Ipswich, 13 July 1675
Susannah Lee, of Richard, Ipswich, 20 February 1675
Susannah Collins, of Benjamin, Lynn, 1674
Susannah Tarbox, of John & Mary, 16 October 1681
Susannah Elwell, of John & Jane, Gloucester, 24 April 1678

Of this list, Susannah Marsh disappears from the records after 1693, when her father reportedly died, but I haven’t found a death record or probate for him. Her mother, Priscilla, married (2) William Hayward on 6 May 1708 in Mendon, Worcester, MA. She remains a possibility.

Susannah Elwell did not marry Thomas Burnham. John elwell’s family is pretty much a hot mess online so the Elwells will have a post of their own.  Although she isn’t my ancestor, perhaps my research will help some Elwell descendants.

Susannah Davis is off the list, as she reportedly married Robert Andrews c1702 and lived in York, Maine.

Susannah Dutch is off the list, as she married Joseph Kinsman, c1698, and lived in Ipswich.

Susannah Collins is off the list, as she married Samuel Lord, c1695, and removed to Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Susannah Tarbox is off the list, as she was a triplet and died at 2 weeks of age.

Therefore, there remains one Susannah born in Essex County who could possibly be the one who married Thomas Burnham, c1699.

Now, let’s look at Suffolk and Middlesex Counties, which provides a much messier list.

Suffolk and Middlesex County Births:
Susannah Brisco
, of Benjamin & Sarah, Boston, born 1674/75
Susannah Blague, of Philip and Susannah, Boston, born 1677
Susannah Pelton, of John, Dorchester, born August 1680
Susannah Butler, of John, Boston, born 1681
Susannah Cross, of John, Boston, 1673
Susannah Clap, of Hopestill, Boston, 23d 10m 1673
Susannah Dinsdall, of John, Boston, 1673
Susannah Evans, of Matthias, Dorchester, 1673
Susannah Ellis, of James, Boston, 1673
Susannah Spencer, of Michael, Cambridge, 6 April 1680
Susannah Shattuck, of Philip & Deborah, Watertown, 6 Aug 1675
Susannah Stone, of Simon & Mary, Watertown, 4 November 1675
Susannah Grout, of Joseph, Watertown, March 1681
Susannah Parlyn, of Nicholas & Sarah, Cambridge, 16 April 1677
Susannah Vergoose, of Isaac, Boston, 1674
Susannah Gridley, of Joseph, Boston, 1676
Susannah Caley, of Peter, Dorchester, 18 December 1682
Susannah Cheever, of Richard, Boston, 1682
Susannah Clarke, of Andrew, Boston, 1674
Susannah Clough, of John, Boston, 1675
Susannah Wiet, of Nathaniel, Boston, 7 Mar 1674/5
Susannah Wyat, of Nathaniel, Boston, 27 May 1677
Susannah Dawes, of Ambrose, Boston, 1674

Nineteen of these Susannahs can be struck off the list of possibilities:

Susannah Blague – Her father died in 1678 and her grandfather administered the estate in the right of Newcomb Blague, the only surviving child.
Susannah Butler married Nathaniel Loring.
Susannah Calley – This is probably the most unusual family circumstances I’ve found. The Calleys will have a post of their own, but Susannah most likely didn’t marry Thomas Burnham.
Susannah Clapp married John Hodgeden.
Susannah Dawes – Her father, Ambrose Dawes left a will dated 17 October 1705 in which he named wife Mary and four children – Ambrose, Thomas, Mary Webster and Rebecca Moulton. Therefore, Susannah Dawes died young and possibly unmarried.
Susannah Dinsdall‘s father left a will dated 31 December 1689. While he named wife Ann, he only mentioned “my children.” However, in 1728, widow Anne, plus John (and Celah) Dinsdale, widow Hannah Linfield and single woman Mary Dinsdale, sold joint property. John, Hannah and Mary were three of the seven children of John whose births were recorded in Boston. Since Susannah (MNU) Burnham was still living in 1728 and no Susannah is mentioned in this land deed (42:170), it is assumed that John’s Susannah died before 1728.
Susannah Evans‘s father, Matthias, died in 1684. Given that his widow, Susannah (Ellis) died in Medfield, Massachusetts on 24 August 1724 and her stepson, Matthias, died also in Medfield on 2 February 1724, it seems that the family removed to the south of Boston. No further record is found for Susannah and, as Medfield is about 60 miles from Ipswich, I will assume that she either died young or removed to Medfield and was lost to time there.
Susannah Grout – Her father, Joseph, was still living in Watertown as late as 1698 and his son was called Joseph Jr. until 1717, but only Joseph in 1719. It appears this Susannah Grout married Zachariah Smith in 1710.
Susannah Parlyn – Nicholas Parlin’s family is well covered in The Parlin Genealogy with all of Susannah’s siblings’ lives detailed. However, only Susannah’s birth is noted in Cambridge and I believe she probably died soon after birth as many early Cambridge deaths seem not to have been entered in the records.
Susannah Shattuck married Nathaniel Norcross.
Susannah Spencer – It appears that Michael Spencer and family removed to East Greenwich, Kent, Rhode Island by 1700 and Susannah married (1) Richard Briggs, 23 September 1700 and possibly (2) John Olin, 4 October 1708, both in East Greenwich.
Susannah Stone married Edward Goddard.
Susannah Vergoose died in 1687.
Susannah Wyatt married Nathaniel Ethridge in 1700, Boston.
Susannah Gridley died young, as she is not in her father’s 1687 will.
Susannah Cheever married Robert Rand.
Susannah Clarke married Ebenezer Hancock.
Susannah Clough married Benjamin Swain.
Susannah Wiet, born 1674/5, died in infancy.

That leaves four Susannahs from Suffolk and Middlesex Counties who could possibly be the wife of Thomas Burnham.

We now have a total of  five Susannahs who can’t be accounted for after their births, except for Susannah Lee who may have married Thomas Knowlton.

If Susannah (MNU) Burnham’s birth was recorded in Massachusetts, then she is one of these remaining Susannahs. Now the real work begins! Can any more information be found to support or reject each of these Susannahs as the wife of Thomas Burnham? Time will tell and I need to get busy!