Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Clues for the Ancestry of murder victim, William Seaver

On 15 March, I posted "A Horrid Murder" in Alexandria.  The newspaper article about his murder on 6 July 1821 was lurid, but what happened after that?  On 17 March, I wrote William Seaver's Murder in 1821 - a Reward Offered - by the President of the United States, and three mayors.  The William Seaver's Murder in 1821 - A Jailhouse Confession post on 18 March seemed to solve the case.  William Seaver's Murder in 1821 - Was it Ever Solved? posted on 21 March was an article from 1874 claiming that the murder was a "cold case," but mentioned a confession to a murder printed in the Alexandria Gazette newspaper in 1866.  William Seaver's Murder in 1821 - the 1866 Confession, posted on 30 March, provided the first part of the 1866 Confession of John Trust from the Alexandria Gazette newspaper, and Part 2 on 31 March provided more detail of the murder from the confession. 

So who was William Seaver, where did he come from, who was in his family, and what happened to them? 

I think I can answer the first three questions, and will save the last question for later. 

I did not have a William Seaver with a death date of 1821 in my database. However, a correspondent wrote me that she was researching a William Seaver who married a Martha and had children Martha, William and Sarah (no dates given).  This was the William Seaver that was murdered in 1821, and my correspondent is researching the wife and children of William Seaver.

I consulted The Seaver Genealogy, compiled by Jesse Montgomery Seaver in 1924 and published by the author as a typescript.  This typescript was based on collected records and correspondence with many Seaver families who passed their family data to him. 

One of the families with no further information in The Seaver Genealogy by Jesse Montgomery Seaver (page 64, accessed on Ancestry.com) was:

 "William was murdered, m. Martha Davis: ch: Martha, William, Sarah."

Comparing my correspondent's secondary information with the Seaver book's secondary information, all of the family names match, and the critical fact of the murder matches.  Is this a fortuitous coincidence?  Perhaps.  But perhaps it is the same family.  Recall that in one of the newspaper articles it notes that William Seaver was born in Massachusetts. 

The Seaver Genealogy notes that the William Seaver that married Martha Davis was born in 1782 in Roxbury, Massachusetts to Ebenezer and Sarah (Coolidge) Seaver.  A marriage of William Seaver to Martha Davis on 12 December 1809 in Providence, Rhode Island was found in the book:

David Colby Young and Elizabeth Keene Young, Vital records from Maine newspapers, 1785-1820 (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1993)

Where did Jesse Montgomery Seaver obtain the information about the marriage, the names of the spouse and children, and the murder?  It is very likely that he obtained it from a family member who had a family record or memory book - perhaps from William Seaver's siblings or their children.

 I have abstracts of many of the Seaver probate records from Middlesex County and Norfolk County, Massachusetts (Norfolk was formed from Suffolk County in 1793) and do not see William Seaver mentioned in those records.  Ebenezer Seaver died in 1820 in Brighton, Massachusetts (in Middlesex County then).  I don't have Seaver probate abstracts from Suffolk County, however, and several of Ebenezer Seaver's sons also resided there.  There may be newspaper records from Boston at the time of the murder that I haven't found yet.

What about other persons with the name William Seaver (and variants)?  I have several of them in my database who were old enough to marry in 1809, but only one that is not "connected" to a set of parents.  He was born in about 1780, birthplace unknown, and resided in Maine into the 1850s.  He could be the son of Ebenezer and Sarah (Coolidge) Seaver.  The key piece of information is likely to be some sort of record of Ebenezer Seaver that names his children and their residence.

While all of the evidence I have is based on derivative sources, and is secondary information, there are no evidence conflicts yet.  It is likely that the William Seaver murdered in 1821 in Alexandria, Virginia was the William Seaver born in 1782 in Roxbury, husband of Martha Davis, and father of Martha, William and Sarah Seaver.  I am actively searching for further records.  There may be church records, land records and probate records for William Seaver in Washington, DC. 

What happened to the wife Martha (Davis) Seaver, and the children Martha Seaver, William Seaver and Sarah Seaver?  There may be records for them hiding in vital, church, census, newspaper, cemetery and other records.  I'm looking!  My correspondent is looking too! More later!

Does any reader have suggestions for further research?  This is a challenging research problem and I will appreciate any help.  Please email me at rjseaver@cox.net.  Thanks!

No comments: