Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - Death Index Record of Abigail Gates (1774-1855)

It's Treasure Chest Thursday - a time to reveal another gem in my treasure chest of family history. 

I have quite a few index records from the Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841 to 1910 database, I have not collected Death certificates for all of them.  In almost all cases, the information on the indexed records are exactly the same that are available from the town records or on a death certificate obtained from the specific Massachusetts town.

As an example of one of these indexed records, here is a death index page from 1855 for Gardner, Worcester County, Massachusetts:  

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Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012

This image was obtained from the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) database on  The source citation for this entry is:

"Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," online database, New England Historic Genealogical Society, American Ancestors (, citing original data at Massachusetts State Archives, Deaths, 1855, Worcester County, Gardner town, Volume 95, Page 117, Abigail Gates entry.

The entry for my fourth great-grandmother, Abigail (Knowlton) Gates (1774-1855) is the fourth from the top of the page.  The column headings and the entries for Abigail are:

No.:  4
Date of Death:  Jany 28th 1855

Name and Surname:  Abigail GatesAge, Years, Months, Days: 83 - 1 - 7
Place of Death:  Gardner
Disease or Cause of Death: Old Age & Palsy
Sex and Condition:   Widow
Place of birth:  Chelmsford
Name Parents: Widow of Nathan Gates

Unfortunately, this record does not provide the names of Abigail Gates's parents.  My records say that she was born 21 January 1774 in Lincoln, Massachusetts to Jeremiah and Abigail (Pierce) Knowlton.  The evidence for Abigail's parents is scanty - there is a birth record.  In addition, she and her husband named their second son Jeremiah Gates (1792-1801) and their 13th child Jeremiah Knowlton Gates (1808-1845).  That's it!

The marriage record of Nathan Gates to Abigail Knowlton in Westminster occurred on 17 June 1790.  The intentions were posted in Gardner on 9 May 1790, and say "Nathan Gates and Abigail Knowlton of Westminster."  Evidently, Abigail was living in Westminster at the time of her marriage.  However, there are no Knowlton families residing in Westminster in the 1790 census, and no birth or death records for the surname Knowlton in the 1770 to 1820 time period.  It is probable that she was living there with a family with a different surname - perhaps a guardian or an aunt or uncle.  

There is a conflict of Abigail's age at death versus birth date.  She was aged 83-1-7 at death, which translates to 21 January 1772 as a birth date.  The Lincoln record says 21 January 1774.  So she was only age 16 at her marriage, not 18.  She may have maintained the fiction for all of her life.  This age at death is actually the best indication that she was the daughter of Jeremiah and Abigail (Pierce) Knowlton - if it was a different day of the year then I would think that she is not the daughter of Jeremiah and Abigail (Pierce) Knowlton.  

I also have an apparent conflict of birth place here between Chelmsford (in the death record) and Lincoln (birth record based on the available evidence).  One of Abigail's 15 children was probably the informant for her death record, and where s/he obtained the birth place information is unknown.  Lincoln is about ten miles from Chelmsford.  Perhaps Abigail lived in Chelmsford before she moved to Westminster.

I've looked for other Abigail Knowlton (and Knolton, Nolton, etc.) births in the Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 on American Ancestors, and find only one - an Abigail Knowlton born 26 June 1771 in Hardwick to Jacob and Sarah Knolton.  There are no other births in the records for the 1770 to 1780 time period.  That doesn't mean there wasn't an unrecorded birth for an Abigail Knowlton, of course!

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Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012

1 comment:

TCasteel said...

Isn't is disappointing when the column header is what you are looking for and you are given something else.