The name's the same

Asa Thurston Child My great-great-great-grandfather Asa Thurston Child (1820-1860), through whom 7/10 of these Child lines, and 8/12 of these Bowen lines, descend.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, my grandfather was raised in the northeastern Connecticut town of Woodstock, a town away from where I grew up. His ancestry can pretty much be summed up as “New England Yankee,” largely descending from families that arrived in Massachusetts Bay in the 1630s and 1640s. Settled by English people in 1686, Woodstock was originally called “New Roxbury,” after the town in Massachusetts from which most of the original English settlers migrated, and was part of Massachusetts until annexed by Connecticut in 1749. With a limited number of families to marry, this quarter of my ancestry features a large number of cousin marriages. I have ten unique descents from my patrilineal immigrant ancestors, Benjamin and Mary (Bowen) Child of Roxbury, and twelve from Mary’s parents, Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen, also of Roxbury and Boston.

One result of these intermarriages, in some cases because too many records exist rather than too few, is that it is easy to select the wrong ancestor for a family. Such names as “Sarah Child” and “Hannah Child” are so common, it’s not surprising for first and second cousins to have the same name and be born around the same time period. In my first article in the Register in 2005, I clarified which Sarah Child was married to Jedidiah Morse [grandparents of the inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, my first cousin six times removed], and also sorted out another Hannah Child who had been improperly placed in earlier published Child genealogies. While vital records are often the place one starts, you can have a documented birth, marriage, and death date, and still be wrong about the lineage. For these reasons, especially when a surname is numerous as Child is in Woodstock, I’ll go to land, probate, and other records when the kinship linkages are not a “slam dunk.”

Killingly Land Records Killingly Land Records, 10: 364

While working on a case for Research Services, I encountered another Child family in nearby Killingly, which I knew to be my ancestors in one way – they turned out to be my ancestors a second time, something I could prove thanks to a very clear land settlement. This land settlement listed the heirs of Nathaniel and Dorothy (Johnson) Child, and two couples listed were my ancestors Henry and Dorothy Child and Peter and Susanna Child. However, it was actually Dorothy and Susanna who were the daughters of Nathaniel and Dorothy; Susanna had been given other parents in earlier works. Their husbands Henry and Peter Child, themselves brothers, were the sons of Nathaniel’s first cousin Ephraim.

My great-great-grandfather, Henry Thurston Child, a family tradition claims, had had enough of so many Childs marrying other Childs, and found a wife in Pomfret (one town away). Years later they would discover they were third cousins through their common Kendall ancestors in Ashford, Connecticut. One hundred years later, I would discover another way they were related, as fifth cousins, through, you guessed it, the Child family of Woodstock!

Child chart Click on the image to expand it.

ETA: Since this blog post appeared, I have learned that the last paragraph is now outdated. Subsequent research has shown that while Henry and Ella were third cousins, Ella did not have a Child descent. Thus I have only nine unique descents from Benjamin and Mary (Bowen) Child and eleven from Mary’s parents, Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen. See the revised chart below:


Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child