Children of Timothy Whitney

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THE CHILDREN OF TIMOTHY AND ALICE WHITNEY:

NAMES AND BIRTHDATES

By Willard S. Moore



Some confusion surrounds the children of Timothy5 Whitney (Jonas4, Moses3, Richard2, John1) and his wife Alice, residents of Petersham, Mass. The list of children and birthdates given in Pierce’s Whitney Genealogy does not match the list in the published Petersham vital records. The two lists are set forth below.

Pierce[1] Published VR[2]
Oliver, b. 10 Mar. 1754 Oliver, b. 10 Mar. 175[torn] [1754?]
Abel, b. 19 Sept. 1752 Abel, b. 1 Sept. 175[torn]
Simon, b. 28 June 1756 Simon, b. 28 June 175[torn] [1757?]
Relief, b. 2 Feb. 1758 Releaf, b. 2 Feb. 1760
Peter, b. 20 Apr. 1760 Peter, b. 20 Apr. 1762
Silas, b. 29 Apr. 1762 Otis, b. 29 Apr. 1764
Timothy, b. 22 Apr. 1764 Timothy, b. 22 Apr. 1766
Hezekiah, b. 14 Oct. 1766 Hezekiah, 14 Oct. 1767
Jonathan, b. 14 Sept. 1768 Jonathan, b. 14 Sept. 1769
Jonas, b. 21 Oct. 1770 Jonas, b. 21 Oct. 1771
Alice, b. 3 Aug. 1772 Alice, b. 3 Aug. 1773
Oliver (again), b. 18 Jan. 1775 Oliver, b. 18 Jan. 1775
Paul (twin), b. 13 Apr. 1777 Paul (twin), b. 13 Apr. 177[torn]
Barnabas (twin), b. 13 Apr. 1777 Barnabas (twin), b. 13 Apr. 177[torn]

The births of the first four children, Oliver, Abel, Simon, and Relief, are also reported in the vital records of Harvard, Mass., with dates that match those reported by Pierce.[3] Thus, in the case of Relief, the Harvard and Petersham vital records conflict; with respect to the other three children, the Petersham records as published are inconclusive. The children after Relief are not listed in the Harvard records.

The next step in evaluating these various reports is to examine the town records of Petersham. Familysearch.org contains three separate volumes of Petersham town records. The first (hereinafter “Original Town Records”) is evidently the oldest. The online caption for this record is “Births, Marriages, Deaths 1743-1837 vol. 1.”[4] The initial page of the book bears the date of 1 October 1754, although a few records (possibly added later) predate that date. The index to the volume states that Timothy Whitney’s children are recorded on page 8, but the pages are unnumbered and Timothy’s children appear on the eleventh page of records. Unfortunately, this volume appears to have been rebound at some point, and many of the entries are now obscured by the tight binding.

The second volume (hereinafter “1893 Copy”) bears the online caption “Births, Marriages, Deaths 1735-1839.” The volume states at the beginning that is contains a copy made by the Town Clerk of the birth and other records in “the original first Book.” The 1893 copy matches the published Petersham vital records cited above and is evidently the source for that volume. The third volume (hereinafter “1905 Copy”) bears the online caption “Births, Marriages 1740-1905.” The first three-quarters of this book consists of marriage intentions, running through 1905, and the last quarter contains birth records.

The records of the children of Timothy Whitney contained in the Original Town Records and the 1905 Copy are set forth below. (As noted previously, the 1893 Copy matches the published vital records.)

Original Town Records[5] 1905 Copy[6]
Abel born [binding] Abel born Sept. __, 175_
Oliver born March [binding] Oliver born March 10, 175_
Simon born June [binding] Simon born June 28, 175_
Releaf born February [binding] Relief born Feby 2, 176_
Peter born April [binding] Peter born April 20, 176_
[torn]s born April 25[?binding] Otis born April 23, 1762
[torn]imothy born April 20 [binding] Timothy born April 22, 1764
Hezekiah born October 14 [binding] Hezekiah born Oct. 14, 1766
Jonathan born September 12[?binding] Jonathan born Sept. 14, 1768
Jonas born October [binding] Jonas born Oct. 21, 1770
Alice born August 4[?binding] Alice born Aug. 3, 1772
Oliver born January 18 [binding] Oliver born Jan. 18, 1775
Paul     ) born [binding] Paul     ) born April 13, 177_
Barnabas ) Barnabas )

There are several points worth mentioning about these records, besides the tight binding mentioned previously. First, the name of the sixth child of Timothy and Alice is unclear in the Original Town Records. A quick reader might read it as “Otis” but it could be any of several names, including “Silas.” Second, the 1905 copy reports dates that generally accord more with Pierce than with the published vital records.

Given these conflicting lists, and having seen that the Original Town Records in their current form do not resolve the conflict, the next step is to seek independent confirmation of birthdates for these Whitney children, which will most readily be found in death records.

Oliver. The Original Town Records report that he died 18 December 1772, aged 18 years, 9 months, and 8 days,[7] which corresponds precisely to the 10 March 1754 birthdate reported by Pierce.

Abel. An Abel Whitney died at Guilford, Vt., on 7 Aug. 1807, aged 55, which, if the decedent is the correct Abel Whitney, would be substantially consistent with the birthdate of 19 Sept. 1752 reported by Pierce.[8]

Simon. His gravestone in Petersham Center Cemetery reports that he died 12 March 1824, aged 67,[9] which corresponds to the June 1756 birthdate reported by Pierce.

Relief. She married Abel Wilder.[10] Her gravestone in Barre, Mass., reports that she died 19 July 1824 aged 66 years and 6 months,[11] which corresponds within a few days to the 2 February 1758 birthdate reported by Pierce, and is inconsistent with the 2 February 1760 birthdate in the published vital records.

Peter. According to the published vital records of Chester, Massachusetts, he died 5 March 1826, aged 66,[12] which is substantially consistent with the 20 April 1760 birthdate reported by Pierce, but inconsistent with the 20 April 1762 date in the published vital records. Newspaper accounts report his death on 6 March 1826, also at the age of 66.[13]

Silas. A newspaper account reports his death at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on 11 April 1807, age 44,[14] which is consistent with the 29 April 1762 birthdate reported by Pierce, but inconsistent with the 29 April 1764 birthdate in the published vital records.

Timothy. There were several notices of his death on 14 February 1841, but no record has been found giving his birthdate or age at death.[15]

Hezekiah. According to the published vital records of Otis, Massachusetts, he died 25 Oct. 1839, aged 73 according to the church records, or 74 according to his gravestone.[16] The gravestone is no longer sufficiently legible (at least in the FindAGrave photograph) to confirm the published report.[17] These dates indicate a birthdate in 1766 or 1765, which is consistent with Pierce’s report of a 1766 date, but less consistent with the 1767 date in the published vital records.

Jonathan. According to his gravestone, he was born in Otis, Massachusetts in 1768, and died in Cayuga, New York, in 1851.[18] The 1768 birthdate is consistent with the date reported by Pierce, but inconsistent with the 1769 date in the published vital records.

Jonas. According to the published vital records of Otis, Massachusetts, he died 23 Apr. 1845, aged 76 according to the church records, or 75 according to his gravestone.[19] These dates indicate a birthdate in 1769 or 1770, which is consistent with Pierce’s report of a 1770 birthdate, but less consistent with the 1771 date in the published vital records. The gravestone is reported on FindAGrave, but without a picture.[20]

Alice. No death record, or other record that might indicate her date of birth, was located.

Oliver (again). The Otis records report that he died on 20 June 1780, aged 5 years, 5 months, and 2 days,[21] which is consistent with the birthdate of 18 January 1775 reported by both Pierce and the published vital records. The photograph of his gravestone on FindAGrave.com is difficult to read, but appears to match the published vital records.[22]

Paul. No death record, or other record that might indicate his date of birth, was located. According to Pierce, he resided in Quebec at the time of his death, which may have resulted in an absence of United States records.[23]

Barnabas. Newspaper accounts report his death on 27 July 1846, “in the 70th year of his age,”[24] which, if the expression is used properly, means that he was 69 years old, which is consistent with the birthdate of 13 April 1777 reported by Pierce.

The foregoing analysis demonstrates that in every case where Pierce differs from the published vital records of Petersham with respect to the dates of birth of the children of Timothy and Alice Whitney, and independent evidence can be discovered, the independent evidence supports Pierce and contradicts the published vital records. This result may be somewhat surprising, as Pierce is not the most admired of nineteenth-century genealogists.[25] In this instance, however, he found a reliable source. This accuracy, combined with the indeterminacy of the Original Town Records, also supports the contention that Timothy and Alice Whitney’s sixth child was named Silas, not Otis.

There is a plausible explanation for the confusion concerning the birthdates of the Whitney children. Timothy and Alice’s first child, Abel, was born 19 September 1752, a mere four months after their marriage on 20 May 1752.[26] A later commenter may well have been tempted to obscure this embarrassing fact, but, given the frequency with Alice gave birth, any adjustment of Abel’s birthdate requires adjusting those of numerous other children.


1 ^  Frederick Clifton Pierce, Whitney, The Descendants of John Whitney (Chicago: the author, 1895), 81-83.

2 ^  Vital Records of Petersham, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849 (Worcester, Mass.: Franklin P. Rice, 1904), 53-55.

3 ^  Thomas W. Baldwin, Vital Records of Harvard, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1917), 111, 116-18.

4 ^  “Births, Marriages, Deaths 1743-1837 vol. 1,” in Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001, Worcester County, Town of Petersham, online at FamilySearch.org (accessed 17 Feb. 2018) [hereinafter cited as Original Town Records].

5 ^  Original Town Records, n. pag. [image 15]. All the children are identified as children of Timothy Whitney and Alice, his wife.

6 ^  “Births, Marriages 1740-1905,” Births, p. 11, in Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001, Worcester County, Town of Petersham, online at FamilySearch.org (accessed 17 Feb. 2018)/

7 ^  Original Town Records, n. pag. [image 50]. The 1893 Copy, p. 76, reports the same date of death, but gives an age at death of 18 years, 3 months, and 8 days, probably reflecting that the “9 months” in the Original Town Records is difficult to read.

8 ^  Vermont Births, Marriages and Deaths to 2008, online at AmericanAncestors.org (accessed 24 Feb. 2018).

9 ^  Gravestone, Petersham Center Cemetery, Petersham, Mass., picture on FindAGrave.com, monument no. 120510622 (accessed 17 Feb. 2018). See also Vital Records of Petersham [note 2], 191.

10 ^  Pierce, Whitney [note 1], 81-82.

11 ^  Gravestone, Lincoln Cemetery, Barre, Mass., picture on FindAGrave.com, monument no. 77737416 (accessed 18 Feb. 2018).

12 ^  Vital Records of Chester, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1911), 251.

13 ^  Hampshire Gazette, 29 Mar. 1826, p. 3, col. 4; American Traveler, 7 Apr. 1826, p. 3, col. 3.

14 ^  Berkshire Reporter, 18 Apr. 1807, p. 3, col. 4.

15 ^  Pittsfield (Mass.) Sun, 18 Feb. 1841, p. 3, col. 5; American Traveler, 23 Feb. 1841, p. 3, col. 3. No gravestone is reported on FindAGrave.com (accessed 18 Feb. 2018), or in Josephine C. Frost, “Cemetery Inscriptions from Lanesboro, Massachusetts” (1910), New York Public Library, New York, N.Y., online at FamilySearch.org (accessed 18 Feb. 2018).

16 ^  Vital Records of Otis, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1941), 158.

17 ^  Gravestone, Norton Cemetery, Otis, Mass., picture on FindAGrave.com, monument no. 105814740 (accessed 18 Feb. 2018).

18 ^  Flora B. Daniells and Mable L. Crosby, “Cemeteries of Cayuga County, New York,” 10 vols. (1966), Syracuse Public Library, Syracuse, N.Y., vol. 1, ch. 11 (Lakeview Cemetery), p. 30, online at FamilySearch.org (accessed 19 Feb. 2018).

19 ^  Vital Records of Otis, Massachusetts [note 16], 158.

20 ^  Norton Cemetery, Otis, Mass., reported on FindAGrave.com, monument no. 105818960 (accessed 18 Feb. 2018).

21 ^ Vital Records of Otis [note 16], 158.

22 ^ Norton Cemetery, Otis, Mass., picture on FindAGrave.com, monument 105821099 (accessed 18 Feb. 2018).

23 ^ Pierce, Whitney [note 1], 173.

24 ^ Boston Daily Evening Transcript, 28 July 1846, p. 2, col. 5; Boston Recorder, 30 July 1846, p. 123, col. 4.

25 ^ See Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 3 vols. (Boston, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995), 1472.

26 ^ Pierce, Whitney [note 1], 81.


© 2018, Willard S. Moore <wmoore@nyc.rr.com>.

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