Judith Haskell (1781-1861): Unexpected Pruning of the Family Tree

My second attempt at my 12 for ’22 project in which I revisit ancestral lines that I’ve long ignored has produced a HUGE surprise!

I have to admit that looking at any of my Haskell lines – old colonial New England and back into Olde England – wasn’t anywhere on my list of possibilities.

However, a comment left by a reader last month has caused a major pruning of a branchlet of my family tree.

What happened?

Well, here’s the scenario. William Tarbox married Judith Haskell on 25 November 1802 in New Gloucester, Cumberland, Maine. My work on this line is so old that it pre-dates the internet by a decade! That means old-fashioned letter writing, plenty of which I did back in the 1980s and long before I made my first visit to the Family History Library.

William and Judith are the parents of my 3X great grandfather, George Rogers Tarbox, who died in Calais, Washington, Maine in 1895. His death record recorded his birthplace as New Gloucester, which is how I came to correspond with the Town Clerk’s office.

After confirming George’s birth, which certificate also came with a photocopied typed list of the family of William and Judith Tarbox, I wrote once again asking for birth records for William and Judith.

Judith’s birth is duly recorded in the clerk’s records – 5 November 1780 and she was the 7th of 13 children born to John Haskell and Hannah Parsons.

All is good, right? The information was provided by the town clerk’s office.

From there, I built out the family tree and most of this branch originally settled in the Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts area.

There are thousands of descendants of this couple, they are in many online family trees, including the FamilySearch family tree and no issue has ever come up.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem is BIG – it’s WRONG. Back to my reader’s comment. A link was provided to a Find a Grave memorial, which features a photo of a clearly original gravestone in Lower Corner Cemetery in New Gloucester.

The inscription says:

SACRED/to the memory of/MISS JUDITH, dau’r of/John & Hannah Haskell/who died May 12, 1803,/AEt. 22/In hopes of a blessed/immortality

Read that carefully – MISS Judith, daughter of JOHN & HANNAH, who died aged 22 on 12 May 1803.

John and Hannah’s daughter was clearly single when she died and, having been born on 5 November 1780, she would have been 22 1/2 years old when she died.

This Judith Haskell is NOT the Judith who married William Tarbox on 25 November 1802.

What next?

Exactly who did marry William Tarbox on 25 November 1802? She, too, was named Judith Haskell – there is no error in the marriage record.

There were several Haskell families living in New Gloucester before 1800, but they were all related, having migrated from Gloucester, Massachusetts.

John Haskell’s first cousin, Nathan Haskell, was another of the early Maine settlers. He first appears selling land (not buying, so he was there even earlier) in May 1779.

Not nearly as much information is found in one place online for Nathan and his family, although it can be pieced together, which I will do in another post.

New Gloucester town records record the family of Nathan and Judith Haskell, although most exact dates are missing. Their children were Nathan, born 1772, Sally, born 1772, Samuel H., born 1774, with their births noted as being in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The remaining 11 children are William, born 1777, John, born 1779, Judith, born 1781, Hannah, born 1783, Isaiah, born 1785, Anna, born 1786, David, born 1788, Jemima, born 29 April 1790, Elizabeth born 29 February 1792, Jonathan, born 1794 and Mary, born 1799, all in New Gloucester.

Thomas Johnson, Town Clerk, recorded this information on 6 March 1844 – a half century and more after the events took place.

However, family members were still living at the time and I trust the names of the children and approximate birth years. I will flesh out more details in another post.

Notice child #6 – Judith, born 1781

She is almost the same age as her cousin, Judith, daughter of John and Hannah.

There are no extant records proving that this Judith is the wife of William Tarbox, but clues all point in that direction. Plus, these are the only two Judiths the right age to be marrying William.

What clues are there?

1. Judith Haskell Tarbox is buried in Upper Cememtery, New Gloucester and her gravestone still stands. Only her birth year, not month and day, is given, but it is 1781, not 1780.

2. 1810 Census of New Gloucester, Maine includes Nathan Haskell (wife Judith’s maiden name is Witham), William Tarbox and John Witham. William Tarbox lives only two doors from Nathan Haskell and three doors in the other direction from John Witham.

3. Nathan Haskell sold off the last of his land in May 1832. One of the two witnesses was William Tarbox.

4. The middle name of William’s and Judith’s sixth child, John, is HUBBARD. Nathan Haskell is the son of Hubbard Haskell of Gloucester, Massachusetts. John Haskell has no direct line to Hubbard and of his thirteen children, only the youngest has a middle name – Parsons – the maiden name of wife Hannah.

There are no other records to link Judith, daughter of Nathan, and her husband William Tarbox to Nathan.

Cumberland County, Maine probate records burned around 1900. Even if they hadn’t, Nathan was 87 when he died and he sold off all his land by the time he was 82. He probably lived with the family of one of his children and didn’t leave any probate records anyway.

However, I am convinced by the clues that William Tarbox’s wife was Judith, daughter of Nathan Haskell and Judith Witham.

There is a lesson to be learned here. This is one of the first family lines I added to the tree (c1981) – ancient in terms of technology and online access – and I hadn’t taken another look at it in all this time.

No matter how certain your research results seem to be, it is wise to review documents and records to see what new information is out there.

And, that is totally aside from DNA surprises!

Hannah Parsons Haskell’s family branch has now been unlinked as my direct line. John Haskell has also been unlinked, although I am still distantly related to him. Instead of John Haskell’s line through his father Nathaniel and his grandparents, William Haskell and Jemima Hubbard, my tree has been corrected to reflect Nathan Haskell and his father, Hubbard Haskell.

Nathaniel and Hubbard were brothers and both are children of William and Jemima Haskell. Not too much to correct there, but I now have plenty of branches to fill out the Witham tree.





5 thoughts on “Judith Haskell (1781-1861): Unexpected Pruning of the Family Tree”

  1. This is a great example, Linda, of the advantages of blogging — and explanatory narrative in general — for documenting real research. Contrary to commercial advertising, and possibly to popular belief too, “research” is not a one-way exercise in building a tree from raw records.

    Unfortunately, a consequence is that popular genealogy is NEVER going to be accepted as an academic pursuit, or recognised for contributing to our knowledge of historical events. There, you heard it from my lips!

  2. Blog readers are the most wonderful folks. I’ve received numerous excellent tips and links from my readers that have sent me off on productive genealogy journeys. Congrats on being able to revise your tree and add new leaves and branches.

  3. You are in excellent company. All of us have had to prune our trees. I lost a big Hudson River Dutch branch when I learned my 2nd great-grandfather Devier Smith was adopted.

  4. Aha! Another Haskell pruning. I have many Judith Haskells in my tree, so your blog post sent me running to check my notes! Fortunately your Haskells are not my Haskells (at least not in these generations). Even though the New England records are wonderful, they are not foolproof.

  5. Your clues put together are a strong case. I wish I could find such clues for the brick walls in my wife’s family. VRs aren’t the be all and end-all. I chopped off a Deer Isle Harriman branch from my wife’s 2gg back once. Thankfully, I was able to reconnect back to my original research.
    Redoing “branchlets” to ensure accuracy is one of my main goals. It’s blogs like this that helps.

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