Benjamin Davis & Elizabeth Low, 1700s & the Extended Davis Family

Before I move on with my examination of the extended family of Benjamin Davis, let’s quickly review my progress – or lack of it in terms of positive finds.

This land deed initially caught my interest because both Thomas and Caleb Burnham witnessed this land transaction in York County, Maine whereby Symonds Low and his wife Deborah, Thomas Low and his wife Abigail and Benjamin Davis and his wife, Elizabeth (Low) sold property to Epes Sargent in 1733.

An examination of both the Symonds extended family and that of the Lows produced no clues that might place Susannah (MNU) Burnham as a member of either of those families.

Therefore, the Davis family is my last hope for finding a possible family for Susannah (MNU), who was born c1675 and married Thomas Burnham, c1697.

Interestingly, Benjamin Davis’s family has taken me full circle back to Captain James Davis of Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts. When I previously sought out all the Susannahs born around the 1670s in Massachusetts, I included but wrote off one Susannah Davis:

Susannah Davis, of James & Elizabeth, Gloucester, 20 Nov 1676

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

I had also noted that Susannah (MNU) Burnham wrote a will with not one, but two Low witnesses:

On the other hand, Thomas Low might be a more promising lead because not only did one Thomas Low witness this document, but when Susannah (MNU) Burnham wrote her will, it was witnessed by Thomas Low, Solomon Andrews and Isaac Andrews, followed by a codicil witnessed by Joseph Marshall, Daniel Low and Jeremiah Andrews.

It is definitely time to dig further into Benjamin Davis’s family. First, Benjamin Davis was born in 1693, the son of John and Ann (Harraden) Davis, making him the next generation after Susannah (MNU) Burnham.

John Davis was born in 1659 and could be a possible sibling of Susannah.

I found several interesting tidbits of information.

Captain James Davis was born c1635 and died on 1 May 1715, Essex County, Massachusetts. However, he left no probate and didn’t appear to have had land dealings. No real estate was sold by his heirs.

This family lived in Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts.

James Davis married (1) Mehitable (possibly Bridges), c1660. They were the parents of three known children, but only one lived to adulthood:

1. John, born 10 March 1659/60
2. James, born 16 March 1661/62; died 23 March 1663
3. Joseph, died 4 May 1665

Mehitable died on 9 June 1666 and James married (2) Elizabeth Batchelor, 6 December 1666.

James and Elizabeth were the parents of SIX (I will discuss Child  #5) children, all born in Gloucester:

1. Elizabeth, born 11 September 1669
2. Abigail, born 13 April 1672
3. Joseph, born 25 January 1673/74
4. Susannah, born 20 November 1676
5. Su Han[n]ah, born 28 May 1679
6. Ebenezer, born 26 January 1681/82; married Mary Wharff, 25 December 1705
7. Mark, born 20 May 1683; possibly the man who died 15 April 1706

First, let’s deal with Child #5 – Su Han[n]ah:

Here is the image from the printed transcriptions of Gloucester Vital Records to 1850:

This entry makes it seem as though Susannah who was born in 1676 had died and another daughter was given the same name. Yet, there is NO death record for Susannah born in 1676.

Online trees have changed this odd entry into one Hannah Davis who married John Warner with intentions filed in Ipswich on 4 July 1702. This might be a plausible explanation for the 1679 birth record.

However, as you  might know, I like to leave no stone unturned so I dug around in FamilySearch and found the original Gloucester town records. The clerk handily recorded all of the surnames beginning with D on two pages for the time period 1676-1682.

Take a look at this:

This is the second page of D entries and the very top item is the birth record for Susanna Daughter of James Davis borne by Eliza his wife 20:9:76.

That entry is followed by entries for (various people whose surnames begin with D) Thomas, Joseph, Aron, Joseph, Timothy, Job, Ebenezer (Susannah’s brother born 1681), John, Anthony and John.

Joseph and Timothy are the only two records for 1679 and there is no other Susannah or Hannah, or even another female!

Therefore, Hannah who married John Warner is a person who existed, but her birth is not recorded in Gloucester as a child of James and Elizabeth!

So, if that record is erroneous, might there be other mistakes in this family? Like, for example, that Susannah Davis, daughter of James and Elizabeth, married Robert Andrews and removed to York County, Maine?  Perhaps! Especially since there is no marriage record for this couple.

I also found a troubling entry in the deaths of Gloucester Vital Records to 1850:

Yes, it says MRS. Susannah Davis. However, in that time period, ladies of a certain social status were also called MRS, even if not married. Also, this Susannah Davis is EXACTLY the same as as Susannah, daughter of James and Elizabeth, born in November 1676.

Here is the citation: Gloucester, MA: Burials in Gloucester Cemeteries, 1720-2003. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2007), City of Gloucester Historical Commission, Gloucester Historic Burying Grounds Subcommittee. Gloucester, Massachusetts: 2006.

I feel stymied at every turn. There is no image available online for Susannah’s gravestone. Back in 1895, William Dolliver was charged with the task of recording all the inscriptions on gravestones in Gloucester. His handwritten notes, in meticulous order, include entries for many Davis people, including Susannah’s father, Captain James, who died in 1715. There is NO entry for any Susannah Davis in any year.

That was 125 years ago, so if it wasn’t recorded then, where did the Gloucester Historical Commission get the information? If they supplemented actual in-person visits to the cemeteries with the Vital Records to 1850, then I have a problem wondering if it is accurate.

The citation in the Vital Records is GR4, which corresponds to the Second Parish Burial Ground, where Dolliver walked the rows and found no Susannah Davis.

There is also no probate record for any Susannah Davis in Gloucester AND I’ve already shown proof that Su Han[n]ah supposedly born in 1679 doesn’t exist.

There was also confusion with the birth entries for James’ and Mehitable’s son James:

These two records reference one child, James, who was born 16 March 1661/62 and died 23 March 1663. That isn’t evident from this image. It makes it seem as if two Jameses were born a year apart.

I can also offer one more egregious error in the Vital Records of Nantucket to 1850, which states my ancestor Joseph Coleman died in 1775. He didn’t – he removed from Nantucket in 1775 to Orange County, New York, where he died a couple of decades later.

Therefore, I know for certain that this published series contains mistakes.

I looked for the original Gloucester town records on FamilySearch. The volume that should contain the death records from 1716 to  has a note in the front stating the death records for that time period are in a previous volume, which doesn’t appear to be available on FamilySearch.

What to do? I got on the phone and called the Gloucester City Archives, which holds the original town clerk books.

A quick check found this entry:

Davis, Susanna (aged about 47 years) dyed December 20  1723

Well, I’m disappointed because I thought this Susannah Davis was an excellent candidate to have married Thomas Burnham. For those who think she married Robert Andrews, it looks like this death disproves that idea, too.

By the way, I did look for any other Susannah who might have married a Davis in this time frame and found absolutely no other possibilities.

I still feel like there is some kind of tie between Thomas and Susannah Burnham and the Symonds, Low and Davis families. What is is, however, remains a mystery.

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