Saturday, November 28, 2009

Finding Sarah Martin's Parents - Mark Putman did it!

It has been an exciting week or two for Mark Putman who shares ancestry with me to John and Sarah (Martin) Putman. I wrote about the dilemma of searching for Sarah's parents before - in:

* The Elusive Sarah Martin (1792-1860), wife of John Putman

* Digging in the Putman Garden of Genealogy Mysteries

* Evidence of Sarah Martin's Maiden Name in the Putman Files

Note that the children of John and Sarah (Martin) Putman are, in order, Peter W. Putman, Mulford Martin Putman, Isaac Kinnan Putman, Eliza Putman, Rebecca Putman, Mary Putman, Martha Putman and William C. Putman. Peter was John Putman's father's name. Was Sarah's father's name Mulford Martin? Isaac Kinnan Putman was named after John Putman's brother, Isaac Kinnan Putman, who may have been named for an uncle (John Putman's mother was a Kinnan). It seems like onomastics played some role in naming the children of John and Sarah (Martin) Putman.

Recently, Mark dug around in the LDS IGI and Ancestral File and found some interesting items - they indicated that Sarah Martin's parents were Mulford Martin and Betsey Rolfe, and that Betsey Rolfe's parents were Ephraim and Sarah (Campbell) Rolfe. After checking the 1810 census for New York, he found the Ephraim Rolfe family next to the Putman family in Ulysses, Seneca County, NY (Tompkins County NY after 1817). His first message describing the find on the Putman message board is here.
After more data mining, Mark posted a message to the Rolfe message board here, and received an answer on Friday that Betsey Rolfe married John Putnam, according to a recently published Rolfe surname book, "The Early Rolfe Settlers of New England" by Frederick G. Rolfe (Gateway Press, Baltimore, 1995).

Mark then found that the book was digitized by the Family History Library and is available online at the BYU Family History Archive here.

The book says that "Sally Martin (7.142), niece of Jonathan (6.147), daughter of Betsey Rolfe Martin (6.144), married John Putnam and moved to Canada, had a large family" (page 15). The numbers refer to individuals in each generation (book I, 7th generation, person number 142 for Sally Martin) listed in the book.

While I am very pleased that Mark has been able to find this connection to the Martin and Rolfe families, I am concerned that all we have at this point in time is:

* LDS IGI and Ancestral File records, member submitted, of the parents of Sarah Martin. We all know that these may have some basis in fact, but should be used only as finding aids.

* Rootsweb WorldConnect databases for the Martin and Rolfe families that give no dates or places for the Mulford and Betsey (Rolfe) Martin family, which came out of Middlesex County, NJ. Again, these are helpful to put families into context, but should be used as finding aids.

* A Rolfe surname book that relies on a narrative written by one of Ephraim Rolfe's granddaughters about the family in Tompkins County, New York. The information on the Ephraim Rolfe family is based on a narrative, completely included in the book, that provides much information about persons, dates and places for the particular line.

To date, there is not one original source or any primary information records for the birth of Mulford Martin or of Betsey Rolfe, for their marriage, or for the names, birth dates or birth places of their children. We do have several derivative sources with secondary information records. However, there are few, if any, conflicts among the data, but that may be because they all came from the Rolfe book information, and especially from the Rolfe granddaughter's narrative.

Hopefully, we can find some probate records or deeds in Middlesex County, NJ and Tompkins County, NY that ties the Rolfe family to the Putman family so that we can conclusively say that Betsey Rolfe and Mulford Martin are the parents of Sarah Martin, wife of John Putman. That said, I am very confident that they are!

Over the past three days, I've been mining the online databases for as much information as possible, and found that the Mulford Martin data is, at best, muddled. The records in Middlesex County NJ are pretty poor after about 1750 and there are several Mulford Martins in that time frame. I had not found the Rolfe book before Mark passed on the information - and the book refers to Mulford Martin as "Mulfied Martin."

We have no idea what happened to Mulford Martin (1763-????) or Betsey (Rolfe) Martin (1766-????) for that matter. Did Mulford die before, say, 1810, and did Betsey move to New York to be near her father and brothers? Was Sarah/Sally adopted by one of her uncles and taken to New York? Betsey's last child was born in about 1807, so Mulford and Betsey must have been alive at least until then.

Young Sarah/Sally Martin either went to Tompkins County, NY, with or without her mother and siblings, and met John Putman, or John Putman came back to Middlesex County, NJ to meet and marry her. Several of Sarah/Sally's siblings raised families in Middlesex County, NJ, so it may be that Mulford Martin left an estate there, or perhaps Betsey and those children never left NJ.

The neat thing, for me, is that Sarah Martin, and now Betsey Rolfe, and her mother, Sarah Campbell, are in my own matrilineal line - I share my mitochondrial DNA with these women. So I can push my matrilineal line back two more generations with this find.

Happy dance, er, genea-gasm, experienced... with all credit to Mark Putman for nailing this down after ten years of searching. I hope that he enjoys the genea-gasm more than I did! He earned it, I just piggybacked on his effort.

UPDATED: 8:30 a.m. - added more context, especially the onomastics, and a bit more analysis.

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