Friday, June 18, 2010

Finding Nathaniel Wade's Wife's Name Online - Post 1

I posted the probate records of Nathaniel Wade (1709-1754) of Scituate, Rhode Island here and here, the will of his wife Ruth (Hawkins) (Wade) Hopkins here, and my Wade ancestral line here.

Reader Pam sent me an email this past week asking me what evidence I have that Nathaniel Wade's wife, and the mother of his children, was Ruth Hawkins, rather than Ruth Hopkins as stated in the 21 Volumes by James Arnold, the Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850.

On the surface, there is a case to be made for both names, based on the records available in books and online. Volume 3 of Arnold's work, for Scituate marriages clearly states that she was Ruth Hopkins. Web sites and family trees are about equally split between the two women.

Here is my evidence collection trail and conclusion:

Ruth Hawkins was born 14 March 1711 in Providence, Rhode Island to William and Elizabeth (Arnold) Hawkins. She married Nathaniel Wade (1709-1754) in Scituate, Providence County, Rhode Island on 26 June 1731 and they had six children - Simon, Dudley, Mercy, Ruth, Deborah, and John; all of them are listed in the Scituate, Rhode Island entries in the Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850 Volume III..

Nathaniel Wade died on 29 June 1754, according to his probate records. Ruth (Hawkins) Wade married Zebedee Hopkins on 9 February 1758 in Scituate, Rhode Island. They moved to Glocester, Providence County, Rhode Island, where Ruth Hopkins died on 7 December 1789, according to her probate records. In her will, Ruth's heirs were her sons John Wade, Dudley Wade and Simon Wade, and her cousin Sarah Hawkins, daughter of Uriah Hawkins. So it is evident that Ruth was married to a Wade.

The critical piece of evidence is found in the will of Elizabeth (Arnold) (Hawkins) Smith. Elizabeth Arnold married William Hawkins on 14 December 1704 in Providence, RI, and they had children Elijah, Uriah, Joseph, Ruth and Deborah Hawkins. William Hawkins died intestate on 8 October 1712 in Providence, leaving Elizabeth with five children. She married Israel Smith on 3 June 1718 in Providence, and they had four children, Stephen, Naomi, Elizabeth and Israel Smith.

Elizabeth (Arnold) (Hawkins) Smith wrote her will on 1 July 1758 and it was proved 17 July 1758 in Glocester, Providence County, Rhode Island. In her will, she names six children, including Ruth Hopkins, Deborah Waid, Elijah Hawking (deceased), Stephen Smith, Elizabeth Man and Neomia Angell. [By the way, Deborah Hawkins married Nathaniel' Wade's brother, Nathan Wade.]

Ruth (Hawkins) Wade married Zebedee Hopkins on 1 February 1758, and her mother, Elizabeth Smith, wrote her will on 1 July 1758, five months later. Good timing, eh? Of course, if she had written it a year earlier, she would have named Ruth Wade, and it would have been an obvious link.

So how or why did James Arnold put Ruth Hopkins as the wife of Nathaniel Wade in the Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850 book for Scituate marriages? I don't know - it may be that the Scituate town records has the erroneous entry, written by the town clerk based on what the informant - either Justice Stephen Hopkins who married them, or Nathaniel Wade. It may be that the town record is correct and that James Arnold transcribed it incorrectly. I have not searched the Scituate town records for the entry, and I don't believe that any other researcher has posted a transcription of that record online. It may have been published in books or periodicals, but I haven't seen it.

Where can you find the 21 Volumes of James Arnold's Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850? Many libraries have these books on the shelf. I'll tell you where you can find them online in the next posts in this series, with comments about the process on each web site.

The "lesson learned" here is that published books, even those done by careful researchers, are occasionally imperfect. Genealogy researchers need to consult all available resources - manuscript, book, periodical and online - in order to conduct a "Reasonably Exhaustive Search" as part of proving names, facts and relationships.

Thank you, Pam, for the question and for making me review the available resources. I had a fine time this week reviewing my notes, my records and online resources in order to answer your challenge. In the process, I found an excellent resource for information about the Hawkins and Wade families in Rhode Island - at the Pane-Joyce Genealogy website.


Martin said...

Great post! I would not call Mr. Arnold a careful reseacher. Arnold's work is notorious for its errors. I don't anyone who would accept it as a source. It is only used as a clue to the original sources which must be consulted, as evidence by your example.

You do realize how extraordinary it is to have two successive generations of women leaving wills in colonial New England?

Martin said...

You should read NEHGR 136:179-180 for the scoop on Mr. Arnold.