Elizabeth O’Neal’s July Genealogy Blog Party theme is all about taking a research trip, whether in person (I wish!) or virtually.
Since my Benjamin Parker, and his likely cousin or perhaps nephew, both lived on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada, there won’t be any in-person visit any time soon.
This road trip most definitely is not in a straight line from beginning to end. Instead, it required multiple return visits to verify new information at Library and Archives Canada, Ancestry, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and even a library trip to look at Vital Records from the Eastport Sentinel, Eastport, Maine 1818-1900 by Kenneth L. Willey, published by Picton Press.
I’ve learned many details about my Benjamin Parker, but not all the puzzle pieces fit neatly together. In fact, a few pieces of the puzzle are still missing.
Here is the background information so that the conflicting evidence can be understood.
Benjamin Parker, my 4X great grandfather, was born c1787 in New Brunswick, Canada. His father was Loyalist Jonathan Parker, but no hint of his mother’s name has ever been found.
His death is found in the 1871 Canadian census mortality schedule, noted as “October 1870” of palsy.
Benjamin Parker married Maria Wilson on 12 April 1812 on Campobello Island, where both families lived.
it is believed that Benjamin and Maria had a number of children, although the only direct documentation I have for any of them is the death certificate of my own 3X great grandmother, Sarah Ann Parker, who married Daniel Adams and who died in 1900 in Calais, Washington, Maine. That record lists the names of both her parents.
I have seven children thought to belong to this couple – one son and six daughters.
- Robert Wilson, born c1813; given a bequest in the will of his maternal grandfather, Robert Wilson. He died between the 1851 and 1861 censuses and married Jerusha Wilson.
- Sarah Ann, born 1817; died 24 January 1900, Calais, Maine; married Daniel Adams.
- Hannah, born c1819; drowned when a boat capsized off Campobello Island on 12 July 1835. She was 16 years old. More on this after the other children are named.
- Eliza J., born c1822; died 1891-1901; married Robert Rogerson
- Frances (Fannie), born c1823; died between 1891-1901; married Thomas Mathews
- Mary Jane, born c1826; died between 4 February 1850, when she gave birth, and the 1851 census; married Thomas Nash
- Maria, born c1828; died between 1891-1901; married (1) Luther Brown (2) John Mathews
Before continuing on with this story, please keep in mind that the 25 October 1828 edition of the Eastport Sentinel noted that the wife of Benjamin Parker died on Campobello Island.
That might indicate that Maria died giving birth to Maria, born c1828, or shortly afterwards and as mother and baby shared the same given name, it supports the idea that Maria (Parker) (Brown) Mathews was the daughter of Benjamin and Maria.
Next, because Robert and Sarah Ann have documentation (a will and death certificate), I am comfortable stating without hesitation that they are children of Benjamin and Maria.
Now, let’s look at Hannah Parker. The Eastport Democrat published a sad article on 15 July 1835:
Melancholy Accident! Sunday, party of young men and women, seven in number, started from Campobello for Casco Bay Island on a pleasure excursion. Within a few rods of the last named Island, the boat upset and four of the party drowned. The other three saved themselves by holding onto the boat until other boats came from Campobello to their relief, a short distance of two miles. Those drowned were: Alexander TINKER, age 16, Hannah PARKER, age 16, Thankful WILSON, age 16, all of Campobello and Miss Sally Ann CHAPLIN of Digby, N.S. Those saved were: George NEWMAN, Benj. PARKER and Maria WILSON. The young woman who was saved was at first clear from the boat,and with much skill and judgement supported herself and sister for a considerable length of time with the aid of an oar. She was unable to keep her sister in such a position on the oar as to prevent her drowning,and when she found the vital spark was extinguished, she let go of her and endeavored to save herself by getting on the bottom of the boat which, with the assistance of the two young men, she succeeded in doing.
I don’t know of any relationship between Sally Ann Chaplin from Nova Scotia and the others, but the Tinkers, Parkers, Newmans and Wilsons all intermarried.
Note that one Benjamin Parker was one of the survivors.
My Benjamin was a fisherman and spent his daily life on the ocean. I wonder if perhaps he was the “captain” for the excursion to Casco Bay Island and he was taking his daughter Hannah and some friends across the water?
These puzzle pieces fit together nicely until one other fact is taken into consideration. There is a second Benjamin Parker, born c1805, who also lived on Campobello Island. He, too, could have been a member of the sailing party that headed to Casco Bay Island.
While this Benjamin was too young to be the father of Hannah born in 1819, she very easily might have been a younger sister.
What else is known about this Benjamin Parker? He appears in just one census – that of 1851. The St. John Religious Intelligencer reported on 11 September 1858 that Benjamin Parker of Campobello Island died on 31 August 1858, age 53 years.
His parents are not known, but the 1811 Campobello militia lists includes three households of Parkers:
John Parker, born 1754 & John Jr., born 1787
Jonathan, born 1764, Benjamin, born 1787 & Thomas, born 1793
Richard, born 1773 & William, born 1794
The ages of the men on the militia list leave but two possibilities for Benjamin’s father – John Parker Sr. and Richard Parker. Jonathan is my line and Benjamin is accounted for. The others are all too young to have a son born in 1803.
Given that my Benjamin appears in the 1861 census with his family, there is no doubt as to which Benjamin died.
The 1851 census is where things get interesting. Remember, I noted the death announcement of the wife of Benjamin Parker in October 1828?
Well, there was also a marriage between one Benjamin Parker and Olive Mitchell on 28 July 1828, two months before the death notice of a Mrs. Benjamin Parker.
One further marriage record for Benjamin Parker has been found, that of my Benjamin to Susan Herson, on 19 December 1848, also in the West Isles, which was the parish to which Campobello belongs.
What does the 1851 census tell us?
Here is the family of Benjamin Parker, born 1803, in Campobello. The eldest daughter’s entry is VERY difficult to read:
Benjamin, 48, father
Olivia (?), 19, daughter
Lydia, 17, daughter
Hezekiah, 14, son
John, 10, son
Benjamin, 8, son
Priscilla, 5, daughter
I can agree with “Oliv” in the census entry, but that doesn’t look like and “ia” at the end, as others have interpreted the name.
In any case, Benjamin’s wife died before this census was taken.
Does the 1851 entry for my Benjamin Parker help? Not really, except by this time he was living next door on Deer island, not Campobello.
Benjamin, 63, head
The 1848 marriage record for Susan Herson and Benjamin Parker includes the notation that permission of parent was given and in parentheses it says (John Herson).
Susan Herson’s age varies in records, placing her birth between 1814-1819. She was clearly well over the age of 21, so why did her father consent?
Furthermore, no other marriage record has been found for Susan before 1848 and, except for the 1828 marriage to Olive Mitchell, no other marriage record for any Benjamin has been found in that time period.
This presents a real problem. Look again at the ages of the children at home with Benjamin and Susan, who had only been married for three years at the time of the 1851 census.
There are several scenarios here;
- My Benjamin Parker married Olive Mitchell in 1828 and she was the mother of these three children. That means that Maria Wilson Parker’s death was previous to July 1828 and no death announcement was placed in the newspapers.
- If so, then Benjamin Parker born c1803 has an undiscovered marriage to an unknown woman and she is the lady who died in October 1828.
- If so, then there is a second unrecorded marriage for Benjamin born c1803 and that wife is the mother of his children.
- Susan Herson, for whatever reason, married using her maiden name, and had one, two or three children by an unknown husband.
- Not likely, given the time period and small island community, but that Benjamin and Susan lived together for years before marrying and having three children.
I’ve tried tracing descendants of both Benjamins. We know that Benjamin born c1803 died in 1858. However, I can find no trace of any other member of his 1851 household. They just disappeared.
Of the three children at home with Benjamin and Susan, the younger Benjamin, aged 14, seems to have died soon after, as the couple had a son, Benjamin, born in 1852.
George married, had a family, and removed to Plymouth County, Massachusetts, passing away in Bridgewater, Massachusetts in 1924. His death certificate states he was born in Canada, but lists UNKNOWN for all details about his parents.
Susan married William Louis Carr and died in Portland, Cumberland, Maine in 1914. Her death certificate states that her parents are Benjamin Parker and Susan Herson. I believe daughter Susan regarded Susan Herson as her natural mother, not her stepmother.
Personally, I believe that Olive Mitchell who married in July 1828 married Benjamin born c1803. That seems more reasonable than a man having two unrecorded marriages.
I’ve even searched Maine records for possible marriages, but found no good suspects there.
My virtual road trip has been interesting, even though it seems to have left me with more questions than when I began.