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Three Phases of a Dunbar Life

Benjamin E. Dunbar (1776-1831), my third great-grandfather, lived in three distinct locations. To fully document his life, I need to search for records from his years in all three places.

I have worked backwards in time to accomplish this:

  1. Stow, Ohio. Benjamin and his family relocated to this area near Akron towards the end of his life. After appearing on the 1830 U.S. census in Massachusetts, they moved west. Benjamin died not long afterwards, in 1831. He is buried in Stow. The only records of him in this place are a partial probate file and a cemetery marker. Subsequent records of his family mention him only by name with no further identifying information.
  2. Chatham, Massachusetts. Benjamin first appears in the records here about 1804 when he purchased some land. The town history tells us he owned a salt works. He married Rhoda Hall, and after some years they converted from Congregational to the Methodist denomination. Over a period of 25 years or so, Benjamin regularly participated in Chatham town meetings. The meeting minutes mention him serving the town in various capacities. He took part in militia duty during the War of 1812.
  3. Halifax, Massachusetts. A Dunbar family history, The Descendants of Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts by Ann Theopold Chaplin, includes Benjamin E. Dunbar. It says he was the son of Benjamin Dunbar and Hannah Hathaway of Halifax. This week I began looking for Halifax records for him.

The Halifax research is vital in documenting my ancestor’s life and placing him with the correct birth parents. The lineage in the Dunbar history differs from the one given on many online trees. They say his mother was Hannah Latham, not Hannah Hathaway. Who is correct?

If the Dunbar history is accurate, Benjamin E.’s father, Benjamin Dunbar (1749-bef. 1779), died when young Benjamin was just a toddler. Hannah was the second wife. The father had previously been married to Ruth Pratt.

Delving deeper into the Dunbar history, I created a rudimentary family tree from the genealogical information provided. With it in mind, I can recognize records of collateral family members as I search for records of Dunbars in Halifax. The tree will help me sift out those for my direct family.

When I had the tree finished, I began a search on American Ancestors ( for records that might mention the early life of Benjamin E. Dunbar.

I found no will for his father.

I did locate a will for a man the Dunbar genealogy says was Benjamin E. Dunbar’s grandfather. Joseph Dunbar (1702- bef. 1782) outlived a son Benjamin and left a Halifax will providing a portion to the children of his deceased son. Unfortunately, these children are not listed by name. I cannot be certain that Benjamin E. Dunbar was one of the heirs of Joseph Dunbar.

I need more information to tie my generations together. I also hope to determine whether Hannah was a Hathaway or a Latham.

What will additional research in the Halifax records reveal?

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