Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Most Elusive Ancestor - Thomas J. Newton

One of my most elusive ancestors is Thomas J. Newton.

Based on information from vital records and census records of his children, I believe that he:

* Was born in Maine (probably Oxford County), probably between 1790 and 1810.
* Married Sophia (Buck) Brigham, a widow with two small children, between 1830 and 1835, probably in or near Sterling, Worcester County, MA.
* Probably resided in Cambridge, Lamoille County VT in at least part of the 1833 to 1850 time period.
* Had at least two children with Sophia - Thomas J. Newton (born June 1833?) and Sophia Newton (born Sept 1834?) in Cambridge VT (the marriage records for both of them claim their birthplace as Cambridge VT).
* Either divorced Sophia before 1850 or died before 1862 leaving her a widow (since she married again in 1862).
* Left no census records in his name in 1830 to 1850 (at least that I can find).

There is a Thomas J. Newton who fits all of my criteria above, but I am not sure that he is the right man:

* He was born in Dixfield, Oxford County, ME to Jacob and Fanny (Parks) Newton in 1808,
* He married Eliza Coffin in 1838 in Dedham MA, and fathered a baby, Thomas J. Newton, in 1848 who died in infancy,
* He was living in Reading MA in the 1850 census, and died there in 1852 (father listed as Jacob Newton).
* There is no probate record for this man.

For this man to be the "right" one, one has to believe that he:

* Married an older woman (10 years older) with two small children in about 1833,
* Moved her from Sterling MA to Cambridge VT (200 miles?) for some reason.
* Fathered two children, then divorced her.
* Married Eliza Coffin in Dedham MA in 1838, and settled in Reading MA, dying there in 1852.

Is that possible? Certainly. Is it certain? No way.

There was a Gershom Newton who resided in Cambridge, Lamoille County VT in the 1800 to 1850 time frame, and died in 1853. His probate record does not mention a Thomas J. Newton or his offspring. The Cambridge town records don't mention a Thomas J. Newton. Gershom Newton was a first cousin of Jacob Newton.

I pursued the son, Thomas J. Newton (born ca 1833) for awhile - he married, moved from MA to Albany VT, and they adopted two children, so there are no blood relatives in that line. The brief history book reference does not mention his parents.

I have researched:

* Vital records (births, marriages, deaths) in MA, VT and ME,
* Probate and land records in Oxford County ME, Lamoille County VT, Middlesex and Worcester County MA,
* Census records from 1790 to 1920 for ME, MA, NH, VT
* Online databases (IGI, Ancestral File, WorldConnect, Ancestry, etc)

What now? I continue to pick at this problem, but would appreciate counsel, advice, suggestions and wild-assed guesses. Thanks!

UPDATED 6 July: Mike Ferguson, in a comment on another post, made this comment regarding my search for TJ Newton:

P.S. Regarding your earlier post about your "elusive" ancestor Thomas Newton, it seems that you lack many records relating to his identity, and that of his wife Sophia and her previous marriage and maiden name, let alone records of his life from 1830-50 or to whenever he died. I presume that in addition to giving their places of birth, the marriage records of his children also give his name as that of their father. Is that correct? Without more and better records establishing his identity, and that of his wife since you don't have a marriage record for them, I think you need to concentrate on his children/grandchildren to better establish those identities before spending more time researching his name in various localities, including whether he (or whoever is the father of his reputed children) went by other names.

I thank Mike for taking the time to read this post and to make his useful comment. When I originally posted this note, I concentrated on what I thought I knew about Thomas J. Newton. Of course, some of it was based on what I knew about his wife and children.

Let me answer Mike's questions here, and add more detail to this search:

1) Concerning Sophia (Buck) (Brigham) Newton, I have her birth record on 3 May 1797, to Isaac and Martha (Phillips) Buck, in Holden MA VRs, and her death 6 Jan 1882 in Westborough MA (in MA VR 339:452, as Sophia Stone, widow of Jonathan Stone).
2) I have found no record of Sophia Buck's first marriage to Lambert Brigham ca. 1819, except for the Brigham surname book. That book also lists their two children, Augustus Brigham b. ca 1820 and Aurelius Brigham, born ca. 1830. The book says Lambert Brigham died before 1833, as I recall.
3) The marriage of Sophia Newton to Edward Hildreth (on 25 Dec 1852 in Northboro MA) indicated her age as 18, her birthplace as VT, her father as Thomas J. Newton and no name for her mother.
4) The marriage of her brother, Thomas J. Newton, on 23 Nov 1864 in Worcester MA said he was age 32, born in Cambridge VT and his parents were Thomas Newton and Sophia Buck. Census records in 1900 and 1910 indicated that Thomas Jr. and his wife did not have any natural children.
5) Sophia (Newton) Hildreth's death record (29 Sep 1923 in Leominster MA) says she was born in Springfield VT, her father is not listed, her mother is listed as (Buck) Newton, and she was age 86-11-15, making her birthdate 14 Sep 1834 if the record is correct.
6) In the 1850 census, Sophia Newton (age 53, born MA) and her daughter, Sophia Newton (age 15, born VT) resided in Northborough MA. Thomas J. Newton, a bootmaker, age 17, born VT, resided in West Boylston MA with the Nathan Daggett family.
7) I had thought about a different given name but not a different surname. Good suggestion! There are Massachusetts Name Changes available somewhere - Ancestry, I think. But then he might have changed it in Vermont or in Maine! I'll see what I can find.

I agree with Mike - I don't know a lot about any their lives except for these bits found in VRs and census records. There are no known family papers or Bibles, these people are not mentioned in any county history book, etc.

Thanks, Mike. Any more suggestions, anybody? I'm open to any help I can get!

1 comment:

Laurie Mann said...

Hi, I'm also researching a Thomas J. Newton. There seem to be many people with that name in Massachusetts in the 1800s.

Some families jumped back and forth Vermont and Massachusetts over the years. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Vermont was kind of the "frontier" for people who wanted to stay in the northeast.

I have some ancestors named Bastin. They lived in Vermont and had two daughters there. Then they moved to Northboro, Massachusetts, where they had two more daughters. They lived in Northboro from the mid 1840s until 1860, when they moved back to Vermont. The elder daughters stayed in Massachusetts, where one of them, Amanda Bastin, married one of the Thomas J. Newtons in 1864 in Worcester. Eventually, Amanda and Thomas moved to Vermont where he died in 1915.