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Some Research Alternatives for Thomas Snow

Thomas Snow (1735-1790), my 5th great-grandfather, remains an elusive research subject. Last week I received his probate documents from Barnstable County, MA, but the packet contained only an appointment of Executor and a Final Account, with no listing of the heirs to his estate. I need some new avenues of inquiry for him.

Three possibilities appeared this week when I reviewed FindAGrave.com for Thomas:

  1. Oddly, Thomas has two memorials. One claims a burial in Brewster Cemetery in Brewster, MA. This record was created in 2009 and even provides the middle name “Rogers” for Thomas although it offers no source for this information. The second memorial, created in 2012, lists his burial in Old Burying Ground, Brewster, MA. How can a man be buried in two cemeteries? Hoping to get some answers to the question of why Thomas has two FindAGrave memorials, I have sent a message to the man who created the second one to see if he can provide some clarification.
  2. Thomas’ cemetery marker states he died at age 54 in the West Indies. The Brewster Cemetery FindAGrave memorial claims a more specific place of death, Barbados. Again, no source is provided. Is this information correct? What happened to Thomas in Barbados? Did he die of natural causes or for some other reason like effects of a storm, an epidemic, or a pirate attack? This week I asked an acquaintance who has Barbados ancestry for some guidance on researching records there. She did a little research and found there were no hurricanes in Barbados in 1790. She provided me with contact information for a repository in Barbados that might have information on other events the occurred in Barbados in 1790.
  3. The cemetery marker on Thomas’ grave names him as Capt. Thomas Snow. If he was a sea captain, a maritime record of his ship might exist in Massachusetts. My acquaintance pointed out that if Thomas’ body was returned to Massachusetts from Barbados, the ship record would tell the story. I have never looked at any maritime records, and this would be quite a learning curve for me. I will need to educate myself on how to do this.

None of these records will likely show the connection between Thomas and his daughter Lucy that I need to clinch my pedigree, but it would be interesting to fill in his life story. Ancestors feel more real when we know the particulars of their lives. I would love to know what happened to Thomas Snow.

A Dead End


As I await a response to my application for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, I continue to search for records strengthening the argument that Lucy Snow Hall (1760-1795) of Barnstable County, Massachusetts was the daughter of Thomas Snow (d.1790) and Hannah Lincoln (d.1817), both Mayflower descendants. My pedigree hinges on this link. I have no primary evidence of this relationship, only a biographical entry from the 1916 Encyclopedia of Massachusetts. On the other hand, I have not been able to prove that Lucy was not their daughter.

Recently, I came across a consolidated probate index for Barnstable and other Massachusetts counties that lists a 1790 will for Thomas Snow, Jr. of Harwich. My Thomas Snow, also known as Thomas Snow, Jr., died in Barbados that year but resided in Harwich, Barnstable County. I hoped the will would name a daughter, Lucy Snow Hall, as an heir.

The index says this will was filed as Case Z3. I could not find the probate case online, so I wrote to Barnstable County for the record.

They replied promptly.

The record they sent contains just two pages. The first is a copy of the Letters of Administration granted to Edward Snow in 1790, the same year Thomas died.

No relationship between Thomas the deceased and Edward the Administrator was specified, but Thomas and Hannah Snow did have a son Edward baptized at the Brewster church in 1763. Same person? This appointment lends weight to the argument that the Thomas who died in 1790 is the same Thomas who, with his wife Hannah, was the parent of children Lucy, Edward, Bethiah, Hannah, Priscilla, and Benjamin, all baptized in Brewster in the 1760’s and 1770’s. This does not prove that Lucy Snow, baptized daughter of Thomas and Hannah, assumed daughter of Thomas who died in 1790, is the same Lucy Snow who married my ancestor Gershom Hall.

The only other page sent to me by the county was an Inventory filed by Edward Snow over a decade after the estate was opened. It lists debts settled. Dashing my hopes, the last line mentions Legacies paid, but it does not name any of the recipients. It lists only an aggregate amount.

These two pages, the Letters and the Inventory, do not contain enough personal information to tie my ancestor Lucy Snow Hall to this Thomas Snow. Questions remain. Why is there no will in this file? Why did Edward not name the Legatees who received money from the estate? I do not like Edward.

This probate file is yet another disappointing dead end in the search to connect Lucy to her parents and her husband.

While I Wait

As I wait for the verdict on my application to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, I continue to work on this lineage.

I have collected several documents that flesh out the lives of the people in this line. Now I have time to enter this information into my genealogy database.

For example:

  1. Rhoda (Hall) Dunbar [generation 8] conveyed land to her children during her lifetime. They, in turn, disposed of it, and I need to put those deeds into the database.
  2. Lucy (Snow) Hall [generation 7] was the subject of a 1916 biographical entry in The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts. I can transcribe her story and add it to our family information.
  3. Hannah (Lincoln) Snow [generation 6] paid the Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax in 1798. I can add this document to my records.

I am sure that if I look into my To-Do bin for the Dunbar family, I can find other material I have not yet entered into my database.

Tempting as it would be to do more research now, I think cleaning up what I already have would be a better use of my time. Who knows what additional clues I might discover?

If I analyze and organize what I already have, I will have a better idea of where to turn next for more information on this family. My year is devoted to them, and I want to learn as much as I can.

Going through my stack of Dunbar material should not take more than a few days. By then I hope to have an answer from the Mayflower Society. That will give me a better idea of where to turn my attention next.

Genealogists always have something to do, even as they wait for responses.

Another Step Taken

In my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD), I have completed another step.

The Colorado Historian has reviewed and accepted the supporting documentation I provided for my Mayflower line. This week she sent me an official application form which I promptly executed and returned to her.

Now my application will be forwarded to the GSMD Historian General in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It will be reviewed in that office to verify I have provided sufficient documentation for membership.

I have no idea how long this will take. Nor do I know whether my paperwork will meet their standards of proof.

I do know that they prefer primary sources like vital records or wills to prove dates and relationships. I was able to gather those for most generations.

Yet for one generation I could not find a primary source proving the relationship. The only document I could uncover that shows my ancestor Lucy Snow Hall (1760-1795) is the same person as Lucy, daughter of Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln, is genealogy for the Hall family in The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts, published in 1916. Will this be enough?

So far, I have uncovered no other proof. Since no one else who descends from Lucy has joined the GSMD, the Society files contain nothing to help me.

One person who descended from Lucy’s brother Edward Snow (1763-bet. 1829 and 1832) has joined. That application was made years ago and gives no hint on how they connected Edward Snow, son of Thomas and Hannah, to Edward Snow, husband of Catharine Mayo. Perhaps standards were looser then, and they offered no proof.

I can only wait and see what they decide. Regardless of whether my application gets approved or not, I have satisfied myself that I have found the correct lineage.

Mayflower Application Round 2

As I have recounted before, I recently submitted my application to the Colorado chapter of the Mayflower Society. They reviewed my lineage paperwork and asked for some supplemental information.

My initial submittal included birth, marriage, and death information for each ancestor in my direct line going back to proven Mayflower descendants Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln. In four of the seven generations I provided, these vital records and their substitutes did not clearly show that the child of one generation was the same person as the parent in the succeeding generation. The Society wanted additional evidence.

I gathered documents like obituaries, wills, and deeds and sent them in earlier this week. Already I have a reply, and it is a favorable one. All seven generations between me and the Snows link up. Once I sign the now-complete-and-vetted application, it will be ready for review by the national office.

This puts me another step closer to being accepted into the Society. Early in my career as a genealogist, I had never envisioned myself joining any of these lineage societies. I came to learn that they offer more than bragging rights.

I applied foremost because they provide storage for family historical documents. This is a wonderful way to safekeep the research. When you worry that your own family has no interest in preserving what you have done, this can be the way to save it.

The Society has other benefits, too, like access to Pilgrim-related activities, grave markers, a quarterly magazine, and more.

I will sign my formal application once it arrives. Once I mail it in, I will hope for a quick turnaround time in finalizing my membership.

 

 

Forging the Links

After I submitted supporting documentation for my application to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, they wasted no time reviewing everything and responding.

The good news was that they accepted all my birth, marriage, and death records—seven generations’ worth, extending back to my gateway ancestors, Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln.

The bad news is that all these papers are not enough to establish the chain between generations. Out of seven needed connections, only three were obvious from the vital records and other proofs that I sent in.

I do not need to gather any more evidence for these generations:

  1. My link to my father. I was the informant for his death certificate. That record included my married name and described me as his daughter. This is enough to show that my dad’s daughter Teri is the same Teri who married into my husband’s family and is now applying for Mayflower membership.
  2. My grandmother Grace Riddle Reed’s link to her mother, Laura Riddle. The wills of Laura and her sister Theodocia both provided my grandmother’s married name. Their daughter/niece Grace Riddle is the same woman who married Owen Herbert Reed.
  3. My great-grandmother Laura Riddle’s link to her mother Olive (Dunbar) Riddle. The Administrator of Olive’s estate named her adult daughter Laura as an heir.

That leaves four more generations that I must connect:

  1. I need to prove that my grandmother’s son Earl is the same man as my father Earl who married Joyce Bentsen. His obituary spells out this relationship, and I have already submitted it to the Historian.
  2. Nothing I sent in previously makes clear that my second great-grandmother Olive (Dunbar) Riddle, who married John Davis Riddle, is the same person as the Olive born to Rhoda (Hall) and Benjamin E. Dunbar. Benjamin died when Olive was a child, thus his will does not state her married name. I have not found a will for Rhoda, and she died before a census was taken that would have verified the relationship. My best hope here will be to piece together some land records. Olive inherited land in Ohio from her father. She sold it after she married Riddle. The chain of title would establish that Olive Dunbar and Olive Riddle were the same person. Only problem is that I have just transcriptions of these documents. I may need to request photocopies from the county.
  3. I need to show that Rhoda Hall, child of Lucy Snow, was the same Rhoda who married Benjamin E. Dunbar. Lucy died when Rhoda was 11 years old, long before this marriage took place. I believe the will of Lucy’s husband, Gershom Hall (Rhoda’s father), should be enough to document this relationship since Rhoda’s birth record shows that Gershom and Lucy were her parents. Hall’s will leaves legacies to several women whose names correspond to the daughters he had with Lucy. These daughters include Rhoda, described in the will as the widow of Benjamin Dunbar. I plan to mail this to the Historian today.
  4. The final link I need to show presents the worst problem. How do I show that my Lucy Snow is the same Lucy who was born to Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln? Ten years ago, the Society accepted the link between Lucy’s brother and these parents, but the application is annotated saying the link is circumstantial. What would be enough today? I have not found wills or land records for either Thomas Snow or his wife Hannah that would provide a paper trail to Lucy. Compounding the problem is the fire at the Barnstable, MA courthouse in 1827 that destroyed the deed registers. The only documentation for the relationship that I have is a genealogy from The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts, published by the American Historical Society in 1916. This is a secondary source that does not tell us how they derived the information. I do not know if this will be adequate to support my application.

Before the Colorado Historian can submit my application to the national organization, I have some more work to do with her. I hope I can assemble enough curative documents to establish this lineage. So far, the Society has been great to work with, and I would like to join them as a member.

Vital Records Begin to Arrive

For my application to the Mayflower Society, I must collect vital records, if they exist, for each ancestral couple and myself. I ordered several last month. Some have begun to arrive.

My Marriage Record

  1. The State of Wyoming was the most prompt in responding to my request. The record arrived almost by return mail.
  2. The record is on the same template as the Bride and Groom copies that we already had. The one I received from the State bears some official insignia that our personal copies do not carry.

My Mother’s Birth Certificate

  1. The State of Montana responded almost as quickly as Wyoming did. I was curious to see this document because my mom did not have an official copy of her birth certificate. Instead, she had a form from the census bureau acknowledging that her birth had been registered with the state.
  2. My mom was born in April, 1929, but I was surprised to see that her certificate was not filed until September the same year.
  3. Her father’s name and residence on the certificate were completed in a different hand than the rest of writing on the certificate. He is recorded only by his initials, B. K., not his full name.
  4. The family is listed as living at Redstone, Montana although my mom was born in a larger nearby town. Redstone is the closest place to where my grandfather’s family had homesteaded a couple of decades earlier. My grandparents met there when she arrived to teach at the local school in the mid-1920’s.
  5. My grandfather’s occupation was recorded as a switchman at an iron mine. I did not know he was working this way in 1929, and I know of no iron mines in northeastern Montana. He was working at this job in Hibbing, Minnesota the following year at the time the U.S. census was taken. After my mother was born in 1929, the family did move to Hibbing, the town where my grandmother had grown up. I wonder if he had gone ahead to Minnesota in 1929 to find a job and prepare a home before my mother and grandmother arrived.
  6. My grandmother’s occupation was recorded as schoolteacher with May, 1929 as her last month engaged in this work. This was a month after my mom was born. I am amazed that my grandmother finished out the school year with a newborn. Perhaps she was on leave with someone else filling in.

Two other vital records have not yet arrived. I ordered my parents’ marriage record from South Dakota, and I do not know how long that will take to come in the mail.

The guidelines from the Mayflower Society also say Michigan issued vital records beginning in 1867. I know compliance before 1897 was spotty. Still, I need the 1896 death record for my second great-grandfather, John Davis Riddle, if it exists. If not, the Society wants a letter from the State to that effect. The Michigan website says they take 5-6 weeks to respond, so I may be waiting a while for this information.

I already had all the other vital records I need. Once the South Dakota marriage record arrives, I will send my documents to the Colorado historian for the Mayflower Society. They, like me, can wait on the slow response time from Michigan while they review everything else.

 

The Document Collection Continues

My ancestors Laura Riddle (1853-1933), her mother Olive Dunbar (1823-1902), and her grandmother Rhoda Hall (1784-1850) occupied my attention this week. I worked to document their births, marriages, and deaths to complete an application to the Mayflower Society through my ancestor Stephen Hopkins. Of course, all the women present some stumbling blocks:

  1. Laura was an unwed mother. She had three sons with a man in Michigan named George Edmonds before she struck out with the boys in 1885 to homestead in Nebraska. There my grandmother was born many years later in 1896 to Laura and an unknown father. The Society may require me to get a letter from the authorities in Michigan saying they have no marriage record on file for George and Laura even though George is not my ancestor.
  2. Olive left behind a confusing marriage record. She married my second great-grandfather, John Davis Riddle (1821-1896), in Ohio in 1843. So why does the Ohio record omit the groom’s surname and refer to him as John Davis? What else will the Society require for me to prove this is my ancestral couple?
  3. I have no death date for Rhoda. She last appeared on the census in 1850. Her cemetery marker does not include a death date. I may need to contact the Stow, Ohio cemetery to see if they have burial records.

On the brighter side, the Mayflower Society did send me a copy of an application submitted by another person who claims descent through the same couple I do, Thomas Snow (1730-1790) and Hannah Lincoln (1730-1817).

I believe I descend from their eldest child, Lucy (mother of Rhoda), while the other applicant descends from the eldest son, Edward. The application copy from the Society lists the proof documents used for each generation. They list Mayflower Descendants, Vol. 12, and Massachusetts Town Records. The reference to Volume 12 puzzles me because it documents the line of Francis Cooke, not Stephen Hopkins. I will need to look at this book.

I have not yet found Lucy’s birth or death recorded in the town records. I have only her marriage record, her children’s birth registrations, and the transcription of her baptism record. I have a photo of her cemetery marker. I am hoping the Society can help me locate enough additional information to adequately prove this generation.

Will I be able to collect everything I need? One marriage record that I ordered last week has come in. I await other records from across the plains states where my family has lived.

The Historian for the Colorado Mayflower Society sent me a message yesterday asking me to begin sending in what I already have. I will begin doing that right after the Independence Day holiday.

 

The First Three Generations of a Mayflower Application

Lineage societies require exacting proof of generational links to a specific ancestor before they grant membership to an applicant. This week I began the process for the Mayflower Society. Right away I found that despite years of research, I do not have the exact documents they want.

This week I gathered papers for the most current three generations in my chain of descent, beginning with myself and my husband/tech advisor. Already I was missing several of the items they require:

  1. We have our marriage certificate but not the vital record from the state where we were married. I ordered a copy.
  2. I also have my parents’ marriage certificate, but again I do not have a copy of the vital record. I ordered one of those, too.
  3. The document I thought was my mother’s birth certificate is something else. It was issued by the Bureau of the Census and simply verifies that her birth was registered in Montana. I sent a request to Montana for her birth registration.
  4. For people living in 1900, the Society wants a copy of their U.S. census record for that year. I have it for my grandmother, Grace Riddle, but not for my grandfather Herbert Reed. I have never been able to locate him and his family on the 1900 census. They must have lived in Missouri where he was born in 1896 and his parents were divorced in 1904. Will the Society waive this requirement when I am not applying though my grandfather’s line? Or would either the divorce decree naming my grandfather as a minor child or the 1910 census be an adequate substitute?
  5. I do not have a birth record for my grandmother. She was born on a homestead in Nebraska before the state kept vital records. I do not know whether she was baptized. She never had a driver’s license or a passport. Will a combination of census records, her Social Security application, and her death certificate be sufficient to prove her birth date and place?

Encountering these stumbling blocks for 20th century ancestors makes me shudder to think what I will encounter in documenting earlier generations. I have four more to go before I link up to Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln, both proven descendants of Stephen Hopkins. Some of my documentation is pretty thin.

I wonder how many families can run a straightforward line of proofs from themselves back 7 or so generations to a proven Mayflower descendant. I must work with the historian of the Colorado branch of the Mayflower Society to gather enough evidence to complete my application.

Once I execute a preliminary application, I will have two years to submit the final one. It will be interesting to see what they say about all the evidence I have gathered. Will I be able to meet the additional demands I know they will make? This could be a long process.

The Onerous Application Process Begins

Since the 1980’s I have worked on my paternal grandmother’s lineage. Beginning with only her mother’s maiden name, Laura Riddle, I have traced her family back to the Mayflower. She never knew she had such a heritage.

I have collected 13 generations’ worth of material to document this line. This year, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, I decided to submit it to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants to see if my descent from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins passes muster.

I submitted a request for a lineage match in late April. I provided my list of names through the generations from Hopkins to myself. The Society’s review cost me $75, and they warned me it would take several weeks to receive a response. Their service involves searching the accepted lines of their members to see if and where I fit in.

This week I received a response. The first six generations, running from Stephen Hopkins down six generations to Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln, match the information already in their records. If I want to join, I must now submit documentation for my descent from this couple.

Only one other application in their files claims descent from Thomas and Hannah, through a son Edward. They surmise that he was a brother to my ancestor Lucy Snow, also a child of Thomas and Hannah. They offered to send me the Edward Snow lineage application so I can compare information.

They also forwarded my match inquiry to the historian for my local Colorado chapter of the Mayflower Society. She immediately sent me a welcome letter with instructions on how to complete a membership application. This will involve providing birth, marriage, and death proof for every generation between Thomas and Hannah Snow and myself, a total of seven generations.

I set to work on gathering and copying my documents right away. Then I found that my copier needed either repair or replacement. We decided to order a new one, and I am waiting for it to arrive. Copying any of my proof documents will have to wait a few days.

The Society has a lot of rules on what evidence of lineage they will accept. I do not know whether everything I have gathered will pass the test. I hope it does, but I am prepared to do some more searching for other items they may require.

If I am turned away because I cannot locate and provide sufficient evidence, of course I will be disappointed. Yet in my mind, I am satisfied that I have placed myself in the correct family tree. If Grandma had only known.