Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Elizabeth Horton Dill: A Very Elusive Ancestor

What do you do when the supposedly good (i.e., original source, primary information, direct evidence) data is either wrong or conflicted? Here is a short Case Study of mine:

Problem: Who are the parents of Elizabeth Horton Dill (ca 1794-1869) of Eastham, Dedham, Medfield and Leominster MA?

Previous Research:

1) Elizabeth Horton Dill was born in Eastham MA on Cape Cod, became a schoolteacher in 1822 in Dedham MA and joined the church there.

2) She married Alpheus Smith of Medfield MA in 1826, and they had children Lucretia T. Smith in 1827 and James A. Smith in 1833 in Medfield.

3) She was widowed in 1840, and appeared in the 1850 census (age 52) and 1860 census (age 60) in Medfield.

4) She died on 28 November 1869 in Leominster MA where Lucretia (Smith) Seaver lived with her family. She is buried in Medfield. There are no probate records for Elizabeth.

Discussion of Data:

There are two death records in the MA VRs - one in Leominster that says her parents were Thomas and Mary (Horton) Dill, and one in Medfield that says her parents were Jabez and Mary (Horton) Dill. Both records say she was 75 years, 6 months, 9 days old at death and she was born in Eastham. That computes to a birth date of 19 May 1794.

A complete search of all available (on the LDS FHLC microfilms and at the local libraries and societies) Eastham and Wellfleet records reveal a Dill family in the town records that starts with Thomas and Mehitable (Brown) Dill marrying in 1733 and settling in Eastham in 1739. By the 1790 to 1800 time period, there are four Dill families with young children - James, Thomas, Benjamin and Moses. Their families seem well defined in the town records, and they are all in the census records. The only Elizabeth Dill in these families is a daughter of Thomas Dill, whose first wife was Hannah Horton. This Elizabeth is born 9 May 1791 in Eastham, the 6th of 9 children.

The first Jabez Dill in the records is born in 1789 in Eastham, the son of Thomas and Hannah (Horton) Dill.

Hannah (Horton) Dill died before 1797, leaving at least 4 and perhaps 9 children under the age of 13. Thomas Dill married (2) Ruth Linkhornew in 1797 and he married (3) Susanna Hatch in 1813.

The Challenge:

I believe, but cannot yet prove, that this Elizabeth Dill born in 1791, daughter of Thomas and Hannah (Horton) Dill, is my Elizabeth Horton Dill (ca 1794-1869), but the records are in conflict in many ways:

1) The census ages don’t match the age in the death record or the town record.

2) The age 75-6-9 in the death record doesn’t match the calculated age from the birth record, 78-6-19.

3) In the death records, her mother is listed as Mary Horton, rather than Hannah Horton.

4) In the Medfield death record, her father is identified as Jabez Dill, which is certainly wrong, based on the birth records for the larger Dill family.

What research opportunities or resources would you consider next? Any comments or suggestions are welcome!

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