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Changing Focus from Ohio to Massachusetts

Back in December I set the goal of documenting the lives of my ancestral couple Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831) and Rhoda Hall (1784-1850). These people began their married life on Cape Cod, and they relocated to Stow, Ohio shortly before Benjamin’s death.

I have spent my research time so far this year learning about their twelve children. Although I have gathered a lot of information about most of them, nothing sheds much light on the lives of the parents.

This is not a problem in Rhoda’s case. I already know quite a bit about her. She was a Mayflower descendant, and I used her lineage to gain membership into the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

Now I need to look more closely at Benjamin’s life. I begin with a couple of questions:

  1. When he was a young man, Benjamin purchased Chatham, MA land from Fear Dunbar Ryder. Since all the Massachusetts Dunbars descended from the immigrant Robert Dunbar of Hingham, MA (1630-1693), Benjamin and Fear must have been related. What was the relationship?
  2. Who was Benjamin’s mother? Online trees claim she was Hannah Latham. If that is true, this may be another Mayflower line for us, and we would also have a common ancestor with Princess Diana. On the other hand, the heavily researched The Descendants of
    Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts
    (1630-1693) by Ann Theopold Chaplin (1992) claims that Benjamin’s mother was Hannah Hathaway.

Research for the post-Revolution generation presents challenges. U. S. census records do not name everyone in the household until 1850. Many New England family names were repeated from generation to generation, and it is difficult to sort people out. In the case of Benjamin and Rhoda, the Barnstable County, MA courthouse experienced a catastrophic fire in 1827 that destroyed the land records.

Over the years, whenever I ran across a record pertaining to Chatham or the Dunbars, I would take a copy and file it away for future use. I am eager to make my way through this deep pile of resources to see what I can find about Benjamin Dunbar and his parents. After I see what I have already collected, I can determine where I need to look next.

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