I'm not going to rank them all, and I'm going to do them one at a time so I can describe them in some detail - perhaps my experience will help others.
Genea-Discovery: Isaac Buck's (1757-1846) Birth Father
1) One of my most challenging genealogy mysteries has been to identify the father of Isaac Buck, born in 1757 in Southborough MA.
According to the Southborough (Mass.) Town Record book:
"Born to Mary Richards, a son named Isaac Buck reputed by her to be a son of Isaac Buck on Sepr 27, 1757."
This record is on the same page, and just below, the list of children born to Joseph and Mary Richards, including their daughter Mary in 1733.
While browsing through The American Genealogist for 1992, I found an article called "Southborough Mass. Notifications", which included the following:
"I have taken into my house ... a famaley Last from Framingham the
name of Isaac Buck and his wife Ruth and ther Children Susanna and
Joseph, March ye 25:1756. Joseph Richards."
This Joseph Richards is the son of Joseph (died 1748) and Mary (died 1755) Richards who also were the parents of Mary Richards (born 24 September 1733 in Lynn, Mass.). It may be that the young Mary Richards lived with her brother Joseph Richards (and his wife Lydia) when Isaac and Ruth (Graves) Buck moved into the home of Joseph Richards in 1756. Isaac and Ruth went to Southborough to close out her father's estate.
It would appear that Isaac Buck, husband of Ruth, or some other, perhaps younger, Isaac Buck had the opportunity to impregnate Mary Richards. It is most likely to have been a younger Isaac Buck.
In 1765, "spinster Mary Richards" and her siblings conveyed their share of the homestead land to their brother, William Richards. This is the last found record of Mary Richards, and indicates she was known as Mary Richards and not Mary Buck at that time.
A Mary Richards married John Phillips in 1774, according to records in both Southborough and Lancaster, Mass. They had no children recorded.
Isaac Buck, son of Mary Richards, married Martha (Patty) Phillips, daughter of John and Hannah (Brown) Phillips, on 18 May 1780 in Lancaster, Mass.
It is apparent to me that Mary Richards, mother of Isaac Buck, married John Phillips, father of Martha (Patty) Phillips. Isaac and Martha were probably living in the same house in Lancaster MA as teenagers!
But - the question remained - who is the Isaac Buck that fathered Isaac Buck in 1757 by Mary Richards? Was it the older Isaac Buck, husband of Ruth Graves? Or was it another Isaac Buck who was perhaps an unrecorded son of the older Isaac and Ruth (Graves) Buck?
"(V) Isaac Buck, son of Ephraim Buck (IV) was born about 1705 in Woburn Mass or vicinity. He was living at Woburn when he married at Reading Mass, Dec 3 1729, Ruth Graves. Isaac Buck moved to Southboro and with his wife Ruth sold their rights in the estate of her father, Joseph Graves, late of Southboro, Mass, October 19 1757. Among their children were: Isaac, born about 1730; Esther, married at Southboro, May 4 1762, Elisha Bruce Jr.; probably others.
"(VI) Isaac Buck, son of Isaac Buck (V), was born about 1730. He removed to Southboro with his father, and married Mary Richards about 1755. His children: Isaac, born in Southboro, Sept 27 1757, see forward; Susanna, married November 14 1793 Elisha Bemis. The family removed to Bolton, Mass."
It goes on to tell about Isaac Buck's (born 1757) family (he settled finally in Sterling, which was created in 1791 from Lancaster), had a big family with Patty Phillips, and provides several more generations in one line.
3) The question arises: Did the Isaac Buck, born 1730, really exist? There are no vital records for birth, marriage or death, and no land or probate records in Worcester or Middlesex Counties for him. Just because a memoir book says he existed doesn't make it true. The memoir book entry may have been from an earlier family history book or unpublished research efforts.
There are no other Buck records in Southborough town records other than the ones noted above.
The index and abstracts of all Buck probate records in Worcester and Middlesex Counties were reviewed, and do not reveal records for the elder, middle or younger Isaac Buck. Land index records for Worcester County were reviewed, and do not reveal any land bought or sold by any Isaac Buck (except the husband of Ruth) before 1800. There are many listings for other Buck families, including Isaac Buck's (1757-1846) descendants around Sterling MA.
Isaac and Ruth Buck granted land in Southborough to Joseph Graves in 1765. This record was dated 19 October 1757 and registered by the court 29 October 1765. Isaac and Ruth Buck "of Southborough" deeded the property received from their "honoured father Thomas Graves" to Joseph Graves, Ruth (Graves) Buck's brother. Their parents Thomas and Ruth (Collins) Graves had died in February 1756, and this was why the Bucks had come to Southborough.
This is the first and only direct evidence of the existence of an Isaac Buck Jr. The senior Isaac Buck is the only Isaac Buck found in the Southborough records in that time period (except for the baby Isaac born in 1757). Why was the deed signed in the presence of Isaac Buck Jr and Ebenezer Buck? My hypothesis is that they were sons of age 18 or more and heirs of Isaac and Ruth Buck. Their other known son, Joseph Buck, was baptized in 1748 and was probably not of age in 1756 when the deed was signed.
4) If I apply the Genealogical Proof Standard, the best piece of evidence I have is this deed, and the information in the deed is primary (Isaac Buck Jr. was a witness to the deed), the source is derivative (but is a microfilm copy of a deed transcription in an official county record book) and the evidence is direct (requires no supporting evidence). There is no other piece of evidence except for the memoir book (which corroborates the deed information), after an exhaustive search for other evidence.
The only conflicting evidence at hand is that there was another Isaac Buck (born 1706) in Southborough at the time, residing, with his wife Ruth, with Joseph Richards, the brother of Mary Richards. Could this older Isaac Buck have been the father of Isaac Buck, born 1757 to Mary Richards? What are the chances that an Isaac Buck age 50 had a child with Mary Richards aged 23? With an extra family (Isaac and Ruth Buck, and probably their son Joseph) in the Joseph Richards household in late 1956 and early 1757, what opportunities would Isaac Buck 1706 have to be alone with a young Mary Richards? It is possible but, in my opinion, not very probable.
My conclusion is that Isaac and Ruth (Graves) Buck had a son named Isaac Buck Jr., born around 1730, not recorded in any town record or church record, who fathered Isaac Buck (born 1757) by Mary Richards.
5) What if i'm wrong? Well, if the father of the baby was Isaac Buck 1706, then I retain the Buck ancestry and lose the Graves ancestry in my family tree.
6) Now I wonder what happened to the middle Isaac Buck, born about 1730? The memoir book says he removed to Bolton, Mass. (at least one Isaac Buck entered the Revolutionary War from Bolton - I've always thought it was the Isaac born 1757, who is recognized as a Revolutionary War soldier with a Pension Record). But there are no other records to my knowledge.
Your comments on the research problem and my hypothesis and conclusion are welcome! What have I missed?