One and the same

A post I had written awhile back on twins in my father’s family included my conclusion that my ancestor Sarah Johnson, who married Nathaniel Eaton in Ashford, Connecticut in 1755, was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba (Janes) Johnson of nearby Lebanon, Connecticut, which gave her a different set of parents than had been stated in family histories and papers.[1] My reasoning for this conclusion was largely ruling other possibilities out, and the interesting situation of several examples of twins in both Sarah’s proposed ancestral family and among her descendants. Still, at this point, I had no direct proof that Sarah was the daughter of Maverick and Bathsheba. Could I find any?

For eighteenth-century Connecticut genealogy, marriage records rarely stated parents’ names, and with a common name like Sarah Johnson and some potential geographic movement, a first step would be to look to see if a father left a will. However, Sarah was born in 1736 (just six days before her mother’s death), and her father Maverick Johnson died in Lebanon in 1744, when his daughter was just eight years old. While no probate record for Maverick was found, even if one existed, it would have been before Sarah’s marriage, so only useful to confirm she survived infancy.

However, as it was clear Sarah’s parents died fairly young, another strategy is looking for relatives listing Maverick and Bathsheba’s children as heirs of Sarah’s deceased parent. For Sarah’s mother Bathsheba, her father Abel died in 1718 and her mother Mary in 1735, all while Bathsheba was alive, so likely no great record for Sarah there. However, Sarah’s father Maverick Johnson’s father John Johnson died at Lebanon in 1756, several years after his son, and at a point when my Sarah would have married Nathaniel Eaton.

[Another] strategy is looking for relatives listing Maverick and Bathsheba’s children as heirs of Sarah’s deceased parent.

John Johnson of Lebanon left a will dated 29 April and proved 18 May 1756.[2] While he mentions several children, his wording in regards to his deceased son Maverick is less than ideal:

Item I Give and Bequeath unto my Loveing and well beloved GrandSon Marvick Johnson [illegible] hundred pounds to be payed to him by my Son John …

Maverick Johnson [Jr.] was one of several children of Maverick [Sr.] living in 1756 (and not even the oldest surviving child), but the only child mentioned in John’s will. Oh, well. The above will is of course useful in establishing John Johnson of Lebanon as Maverick [Jr.]’s grandfather (and thus that Maverick Johnson [1707–1744] was correctly identified as John’s son, although the vital records of Lebanon were largely clear on that point).

What I then looked for is if any of Sarah Johnson’s brothers or sisters might have died unmarried as adults. This is where things started to come together. I found a distribution for her oldest sibling Ebenezer Johnson (born in 1731) in 1758.[3] The distribution reads:

Persuant to the order of the Court of Probate Held at Lebanon the 27th of December 1757 appointing us as the Subscribers freedholders to Divide & set out that Part of ye Real Estate of Marvirick Johnson Latte of Sd Lebanon Deceased which hath been Set out to his Son Ebenezer Johnson, which is now Deceased (Exclusive of the Quarter of an Acre of Land leased to Abraham Snow) in Equal Parts for Quantity & Quality to Marvirick Johnson, Stephen Johnson, Sarah Johnson alias Eaton, Bathsehba Johnson alias Rudd, & Deborah Johnson, the heirs of the Sd Ebenezer Johnson Deceased….

Bingo! Ebenezer Johnson died unmarried and real estate was set off to his siblings, with his married sisters being referred to by their married names – thus his sister Sarah Johnson was married by 1757 to an Eaton, perfectly aligning with my theory that Sarah (Johnson) Eaton (married in 1755) was the Sarah born in Lebanon to Maverick and Bathsheba Johnson.

Still, as this division involved real estate, I went one step further. Did my Sarah (Johnson) Eaton sell the land she received from her deceased brother, or any land she received from her deceased father? The answer to that was in Lebanon land records, in two deeds of sale in 1757 and 1758. Sarah and her husband Nathaniel sell land to William Beaumont, with similar language. The important part of the first deed reads:

…. We Nathaniel Eaton & Sarah Eaton his wife both of Woodstock in ye County of Windham & Colony of Connecticut …. [grant to] .... all such right Title estate & interest as the sd Sarah now has or ever had in & unto the real estate of our hond father Mr. Marvarick Johnson late of sd Lebanon …. particularly to that part ….  all of right title estate & interest that we have in the right of the sd Sarah to a Division of Land part of the Sd Estate of Sd Marveric Johnson Decd which was set out to our Brother Ebenezer Johnson late of Sd Lebanon Decd ….[4]

While the clinching documents involved land that Sarah’s father owned, the initial clue was a probate document of Sarah’s unmarried brother, which led in turn to documents clearly linking a family with a relatively common surname, confirming my initial hunch that this family with twins on both ends was one and the same!


[1] Nathaniel and Sarah are the parents of General William Eaton (1764–1811), discussed in a more recent blog.

[2] Will of John Johnson of Lebanon, 1756, Windham Probate District, no. 2215.

[3] Distribution of Ebenezer Johnson of Lebanon, 1758, Windham Probate District, No. 2205.

[4] Lebanon Land Records, 9: 335, 344-45.

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