Archive:Which Benjamin Whitney, Jr. d. 1713

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Which Benjamin Whitney, Jr., Died in 1713 in Watertown?

by Robert L. Ward

The book Watertown Records, Comprising the Third Book of Town Proceedings and the Second Book of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, to the End of 1737. Also, Plan and Register of Burials in Arlington Street Burying Ground (1900), gives the following entries on page 50:

Benjamin WHITNEY, s. Benjamin & Elizabeth WHITNEY, b. 14 Sep 1712
Benjamin WHITNEY, Jr., d. 13 Nov 1713

In Watertown Records, Comprising East Congregational and Precinct Affairs, 1697 to 1737. Also, Record Book of the Pastors, 1686-1819 (1906), there appears under the date of 10 Jul 1698, the baptism of Benjamin, John, David, Abigail, and Ruth, children of Benjamin and Abigail WHITNEY.

Many authors have assumed because of the juxtaposition of the first two records, that they apply to the same person. This is not the case, however: the death actually applies to the child baptized in 1698.

The two people involved are Benjamin4 WHITNEY, son of Benjamin3 and Abigail (HAGAR) WHITNEY (John2, John1), and Benjamin5 WHITNEY, son of Benjamin4 and Elizabeth (FISKE) WHITNEY (Joseph3, John2, John1). They were thus first cousins once removed.

Critical to the analysis of this problem is the will of Samuel WHITNEY of Watertown, dated 13 Dec 1805 (Middlesex Co., MA, Probate Records, File #24744). In it, Samuel WHITNEY mentions the following people: brother Benjamin WHITNEY; sister Elizabeth CHILD; children of brother Benjamin WHITNEY; children of sister Elizabeth CHILD; Joseph WHITNEY 2nd, son of Jonathan WHITNEY, late of Watertown, deceased; Peter HARRINGTON; Nathaniel R. WHITNEY, executor. Witnesses were Peter WARREN, Miles BRIGHT, and Saml. BARNES. This information suffices to identify this Samuel WHITNEY as Samuel5 WHITNEY, son of Benjamin4 and Elizabeth (FISKE) WHITNEY, who had been born 22 Nov 1715, Watertown, and had married 1 Mar 1743, Watertown, Mary CLARK, but left no children. His wife had died on 17 Aug 1763 in Watertown.

Clearly Samuel5's brother Benjamin5 was still living at the time of the will in 1805, and could not have died in 1713. This forces us to conclude that it was Benjamin4 WHITNEY, who probably was born about 1691, to whom the cited death record belongs.

Of course, this presents us with a second problem. Benjamin4 WHITNEY, Jr., is assigned a wife and children by many authors, but now we know that he died in 1713. Who was the Benjamin WHITNEY who married Rebecca ----- and fathered the children Mary, Benjamin, Rebecca, Samuel, Josiah, Henry, Lydia, and Sarah, born from 1733 to 1749? Why, he was the Benjamin WHITNEY, Jr., who didn't die, of course: Benjamin5 WHITNEY, b. 14 Sep 1712, son of Benjamin4 and Elizabeth (FISKE) WHITNEY. Apparently he married at the age of 20 or thereabouts, which is a better fit chronologically than the man born about 1691, and who would have been 41 at marriage. Furthermore, he named a son Samuel, apparently after his brother, who in 1805 mentioned him and his children in his will cited above.

There is another reason for believing this interpretation of the records. Children who died in infancy are recorded with the names of their parents. The death of Benjamin WHITNEY, Jr., does not mention parents, leading us to believe that he was not a child. This fits the man born about 1691 very well indeed. Apparently the juxtaposition of the two records was caused purely by chronological coincidence.

In summary, regardless of statements made by Frederick Clifton Pierce, Henry Bond, and several other authors, the identity of the Benjamin WHITNEY, Jr., who died 13 Nov 1713 in Watertown, is Benjamin4 WHITNEY (Benjamin3, John2, John1), b. ca. 1691, bp. 10 Jul 1698, Watertown. This necessitates adjusting of the line of descent for the Benjamin WHITNEY who m. Rebecca ----- about 1732, to Benjamin5 (Benjamin4, Joseph3, John2, John1).

Copyright © 1999, 2006, Robert L. Ward and The Whitney Research Group

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