Documenting the Thorntons of Rhode Island, 1600s-1700s, Part 14 – Loose Ends and Closing Thoughts

Congratulations if you’ve stuck with my Thornton saga through this lengthy series. I don’t think I’ve ever “live” blogged in so much detail as I worked through a genealogical research project.

There were several reasons why I took this path:

  1. Not all genealogical quests are straightforward.
  2. Most definitely not everything is online and, even if it is digitally available, the record set might be locked, as are some FamilySearch items.
  3. Not all genealogical questions can be answered because the records just don’t exist.
  4. Last, but not least, and probably most importantdoing one’s own original research can sort out fact from fiction from clues found in others’ online trees.

The Thorntons left many gaps in their family information, but did leave a handful of clues in what I call loose ends. Because my line begins with John Sr. and continues through son Benjamin and grandson Titus Thornton, I’m only going to discuss two of those loose ends.

First, is the mystery of the maiden name of Sarah, wife of John Thornton Sr. There is NO document that provides Sarah’s maiden name, but the Clarence I. Brown collection of index cards has an entry that poses a good question, which I shared in an earlier post:

Richd Borden, it will be observed, was a land owner in Providence nearly twenty years before John Thornton bought a farm there. the fact is noticeable. As son as the Indian War was over and conditions for settlement safe in “the outlands,” John Thornton lost no time in changing his residence to where Thos. Borden was living. Why should he do so?

My research uncovered a second, important tie to the Borden family. John Borden, son of Lt. Mercy Borden, died c1757. He left a will which included his “cousin and nephew” Solomon Thornton.

Although there were at least four Solomon Thorntons, there is really only one who fits to be the person named by John Thornton. Here’s an overview of the family lines:

Thomas Borden & Mary HarrisJohn Thornton & Sarah (MNU)
Mercy Borden & Meribah TurpinSolomon Thornton & Unknown
John BordenRichard Thornton & Patience Sheldon
Solomon Thornton, b. c1736

John Thornton Sr.’s son Solomon died in 1713, leaving an underage male heir, daughter Amey, and possibly other minor children. Lt. Mercy Borden and Thomas Harris both administered the estate AND agreed to care for the children. This would indicate a close family relationship.

More than 40 years later, Mercy’s son John calls the younger Solomon his cousin and nephew. Using both terms wouldn’t have been unusual because, according to a colonial dictionary, “nephew” as we know it didn’t come into widespread use until the 1750s. Before then, a nephew was called a cousin.

Now, look at the table above. Maiden names are unknown for both the wife of John Thornton Sr. and his son, Solomon. My current thoughts are that (1) Solomon’s wife was a Borden since John Borden was apparently unmarried, but his uncle and (2) that John Thornton Sr.’s wife might also have been a Borden or possibly a Harris since Thomas Harris was co-guardian of Solomon’s children and the Bordens and Harrises had ties by marriage.

The second loose end is a name for the wife of Benjamin Thornton, son of John Thornton Sr. and Sarah (MNU). Online trees and the Clarence I. Brown collection posit Gurney as the maiden name of his wife because there is a reference to John Gurney being the brother-in-law of Benjamin Thornton. While it’s possible that his wife might have also been a Gurney, I tend to doubt it. John Gurney was the second husband of Benjamin’s sister, Sarah Thornton, which also makes him a brother-in-law to Benjamin.

I do have one idea, which I’ve never seen anyone else propose. Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts is a mere ten miles from Providence, Rhode Island.

Benjamin named one of his sons, who happens to be my ancestor, TITUS. That is a very unique name for any time period and I believe may well be in honor of Benjamin’s wife’s family – that she was a TITUS by birth.

This is strictly conjecture, but the given name of Titus appears nowhere else except in Benjamin’s branch of the family.

Now, why did I mention Rehoboth, Massachusetts? Guess who lived there – the Titus family! I’ll even go one step further and guess that Benjamin’s wife might have been an Elizabeth Titus, since he had two daughters and the other, Sarah, was probably named for his own mother.

Whether or not I’ll ever be able to prove my hypothesis, I doubt, given the lack of vital records.

Readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my loose ends and closing thoughts.!

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