She was right there, exactly where I had left her – twenty or so years ago. Even now, she seemed to stare back at me from her vantage point in time, one made up of long-ago names and foggy dates in an old ahnentafel. I like to say I’d forgotten all about Sarah, but the truth is I never have, as the “who of just who” Sarah was in this world has always nagged at me. I have to believe that Sarah would have known this about me, too, figuring that I’d always make my way back to study her life again. I guess it’s because Sarah’s life looks to have had no beginning or end to it; only “a middle,” if you will. It’s been those fuzzy edges in the middle that have kept drawing me back in – and leaving me wanting to know more about Sarah.
It all started out for me with (where else but) the Mayflower, and with my ever-present hopes of finding new lines, or of un-covering old ones, and with me generally fumbling about like a wishful Indiana Jones on the hunt for a secret treasure map under Plymouth Rock. I first ‘met’ my ancestress Sarah (Coombs) Bumpus, or “Sary Cumbs” as she is perhaps more correctly recorded, as a possible descendant of Mayflower passenger Degory Priest, and as the wife of my forebear Ichabod Bumpus. Sarah and “Ike” had married in January of 1718/19, and as an ancestral line it’s been one that’s had me like a fish on a hook.
Modern scholarship says she couldn’t possibly connect to the Priests because her potential father Francis died three years before Sarah was born.
Now, Sarah poses some problems. Modern scholarship says she couldn’t possibly connect to the Priests because her potential father Francis died three years before Sarah was born. And while such impossible vitals haven’t always deterred folks from adding to their family trees anyway, this sort of “factoid” seemed well worth avoiding if I wanted to keep on filling out any of the blanks on those pesky old lineage society applications.
No, in the end Sarah’s lack of Mayflower ancestry and her alleged birth three years after daddy died didn’t bother me so much. But something else sure did – a “fact” that at this point was consequential to any Mayflower ancestry – Sarah’s date of birth of 26 January 1686/87. There was no source for it! And what bothered me most of all was that I had been complicit in this, recording Sarah’s date of birth in that old ahnentafel (and in subsequent ones) exactly the same way – without so much as the blink of an eye and nary a source. Really Jeff, copy and paste? Grade D-. I must resolve to do better. (I can only hope that Alicia Crane Williams never reads my posts.)
What the heck? So where exactly had that birth date for “Sary Cumbs” come from, and/or further, where exactly was I going to find a source for one? Heck, maybe I’d missed it? Now, I’m easy, I’ll take just about any somewhat realistic source beyond the spectral, or the all-knowing and very random “data-base compiled from” index. You know, a source like the Register or TAG would be great, or even an appropriately flawed nineteenth-century published genealogy. (Sorry Alicia!) But wait – there don’t seem to be any sources for Sarah’s stated date of birth of 26 January 1686/87. Indeed, I think I’ve been skunked – and the worst part is that I have done the better part of it to myself.
So in my efforts to atone for my “copy and paste” ways, I’ve decided to learn everything I can about Sarah. I’ve looked into two Bumpus genealogies, hoping their authors might have expounded a bit more about Sarah; you know, something like “Oh yes, if you’re looking for Sarah’s date of birth you can find it recorded here…,” but without any luck. Indeed, I’ve even gone back to Plymouth Court records to see if any birth date at all for Sarah might still somehow connect her to “those Coombs.” However, while polite, our friends in Plymouth have sent me packing, still in search of Sarah.
There is a gap in the birth dates of their children between 1695 and 1699 that Sarah might well fit into.
There is some tentative hope on the horizon though, as even though Sarah might not belong to all things Mayflower, there is an unproven school of thought that she may belong to the family of Anthony Comes and Dorcas Worden, married in York, Maine on 5 September 1688. There is a gap in the birth dates of their children between 1695 and 1699 that Sarah might well fit into. I’m hopeful that with a lot of contrition on my part and a bit of onomastic sleuthing I might ascertain a reasonable (if not verifiable) date of birth for Sarah. And, yes, I’d prefer one that will not be part of any algorithmic tree collections, or the dark web, or come years after the death of any father, and/or not make her thirty-three years old for the birth of her first child. I’ve a couple of places yet to look, such as in the Boston Evening Transcript, hopefully finding caches where Sarah might just have secreted herself away. Wish me luck if you will. For me, there has always been something about Sarah.
 Carle Franklin Bumpus, Bompass, Bumpas, Bump, Bumpus and Allied Families, 1651-1981 (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1985).
 Lynn Albert Bumpus, A genealogy of Bump, Bumpas, Bumpass, Bumpers, Bumps, Bumpus: descendants of Edouad Bompasse of the ship “Fortune” (Sayre, Pa.: Lynn Albert Bumpus, 1986).
 “Marriages in Co. York, Me., 1686-99,” Register 28 : 118.
 William Carey Coombs, The Story of Anthony Coombs and His Descendants (Amelia, Ohio, 1913).
 Rachel Bumpas, born 9 June 1719, and the apparent firstborn child of Ichabod and Sary (Cumbs) Bumpus.
24 thoughts on “Something about Sarah”
Some of our ancestors just won’t leave us alone, will they? I have a lot of brick walls, but one lady in particular keeps calling to me. One day, I hope I’ll learn enough to be able to find her. (I haven’t forgotten you, Molly!) I hope you find something that proves your Sarah, so she won’t keep looking at you from afar.
Loved the article. Sarah’s essence is mysterious. Only one question. I know Algorithmic means exact instructions in precise order to achieve a goal, but confused as to what you meant by your phrase of “algorithmic tree collections”. Could you elucidate that for me? Thanks! And best wishes on the addictive, enthralling search for Sarah!
Diane, thank-you for this – I think my use of “algorithmic” was incorrect and perhaps a bit too harsh! I was trying to have it reflect the robotic method of collecting “just data” that may or not be of any use in compiling a family history. I think when I used it I may have missed the mark. 🙁
Darn it, I need to work on a better use of my wording. (I am fast becoming a silly old man!)
I don’t know about that, Jeff. I think the word algorithm fits the point you were making pretty well. After all the people who do genealogy by sticking “just data” together are indeed following an algorithm that has as it’s primary “rule” finding someone of a particular name and attaching it to the list, then finding someone with an appropriate name and attaching it to the previous name, ad infinitem. It’s a simple algorithm, and one guaranteed to introduce errors and lead one far astray by its very lack of recognition of the complexities of human lives. We as genealogists need far more complex and nuanced algorithms in order to ensure accuracy and provide depth to the stories we tell of our ancestors. The Genealogical Proof Standards, fortunately, provides us with such an algorithm, one that avoids the straight-line pitfalls of the first kind and leads us on wondrous, winding (though sometimes frustrating) journeys of discovery.
What a delightful post. I wish you luck and also will confess to similar conundrums caused by my own carelessness. I started as a teen and would like to attribute my sloppiness to that but clearly I have been guilty more than once. Of late my mission is to detach all unsubstantiated claims of specific English origins. Rampant attachment of suitable and unsuitable baptisms etc have truly muddied the early NE waters. Thanks to NEGHS and various projects (Early Migration) for pulling together what is verifiable for each immigrant. Kelly Wheaton
There’s also something about Jeff. You are a gifted writer and I so look forward to your posts. By the way, good luck with Sarah.
Amen. Always jump on Jeff’s posts as enjoyment and learning. His business is so relatable.
Well written, Jeff. I think many of us have a Sarah like yours. Good luck.
Jeff, where can I find your publication on the Youngs of Windham, Connecticut? I recently had a breakthrough on my Young linage and found I am a descendant of this line.
Charles A Young
Charles, I think this link should work:
If not, email me and we will figure out out common connections!
I have two Coombs (Coomes, Cooms, etc } in my family. The one with a Mayflower line was the easiest to deal with, the other more of a challenge. some of those still unsolved There was a Sarah Cooms (sister of my Solomon) born in 1703 in Northampton, MA the dau of John and Elizabeth. Probably born too late to be your Sarah. She would present more problems dealing with he parents’ origin.
I too enjoy your posts.
I echo the comments here as well. It’s always worthwhile to revisit those ancestors who have eluded us, especially in areas like Plymouth County where we think everyone should be found. I have several cases like yours.
Jeff, have you tried St. Anthony ? LOL He finds all things lost. He is currently working on
one of mine though !
After making a comment about other Coomes I decided to take a look at Plymouth County Deeds. There is one interesting deed. (32:148) In 1726 Ichabod Bumpus sold all of his Rochester property to Ithamer Coomes and Josia Wood. Witnesses for Sarah Bumpus when the deed was acknowledged in 1738 included Hannah Hicks.
Hannah Coomes married Nicholas Hicks in 1729..
Two connections to Anthony Coomes. She could be an unrecorded daughter or the daughter born 39 Nov 1700. In the original the name looks like Harah. It could be read either Sarah or Hannah. Good luck.
Marian: Good stuff here – thank you for this. (Sarah thanks you too!)
Have you pursued yet the web of IB’s deeds as represented by Marian found? Hannah (Coomes) Hicks in 1738 is either a sister or a very very near relation of Sary, not just the neighbor up the lane.
Robert, Thanks for this – a very awesome and real clue. I am going to be checking this out!
Gregory, you are way too kind!!! – You should see what I put Scott Steward through (“Yikes!”)….The poor man must need to drink heavily after editing my posts.
(Not to mention my poor Golden Retriever who I continously bounce ideas of off – and who merely rolls his eyes.)
Jeff, the name “Dorcas Worden” rang a bell. My 9th gr-uncle Samuel Gatchell/Getchell m. 1635-40 a Dorcas “Wooden” but I’ve found it also as “Woden” and my notes say others found other spelling variations. “Worden” wouldn’t be a stretch. This Dorcas was b. abt 1616, so can’t possibly be your Sarah’s mother, but after arriving from England in 1634, Sam’l parted ways with brother John in Marblehead MA and relocated in an area that became Maine.
Sam’l and Dorcas’s eldest dau Susan/Susananna, b.10 Mar 1642 Hampton, Rockingham Co, New Hampshire, was apparently born on the way to Maine. She m. in 1662 Joseph NORTON. Again, Dorcas Gatchell/Getchell can’t be your Sarah’s mother, but I can’t help but think your Dorcas Worden was related to her. A niece perhaps?
Jeff, the mention of Degory PRIEST caught my attention because years ago I discovered him to be the 10th gr-gf of a woman named Vala in Iceland, the dau-in-law of an Icelandic friend of a friend. Thanks to Icelanders’ penchant for genealogical record keeping, Vala knew her Anerican ggf was a stranded whaler named Thomas Scott from Massachusetts b. 1848. Turns out Thonas was b. in Nova Scotia in May 1848 who emigrated to MA in 1869 and became a Naturalized Citizen in 1874.
Thonas Scott was the 7th gr-grandson of Degory Priest and Sarah ALLERTON through their dau Mary (Priest) and Phineas PRATT’s son Joseph Pratt.
The last thing I expected when I began the search for Vala’s American roots was a link to the Mayflower! Quite an interesting story. Thomas Scott was in the crew of a whaling vessel that was caught in a storm and went aground on the coast of Iceland. Because it was late in the fishing season, they had to remain over the winter before a rescue vessel could arrive the following spring. I should that Thomas made no secret that he had a wife (but no children) back in MA, but Icelanders attach no stigma to children born outside of marriage.
Dear all, Apologies for the “n” typos in ThoMas due to my being a two-finger typist and letters on some keys having worn off years ago. Sorry.
Like you, I have long struggled to capture a record of Sarah (Sary) Coombs’ birth and am still looking. However, I am strongly of the belief that Sarah was the fifth child of Anthony Coombs and Dorcas Woodin.
Anthony and Dorcas were married at Wells (ME) on 5 Sep 1688, just before the start of the King William’s War. Anthony was resident at Wells on the land of Louis Alain. Alain left his land and went to Nova Scotia and apparently Anthony sent his bride to Essex County to live with members of her family. During the period of the war Anthony made a number of trips to Essex County based on the births of their first four children. Sometime around 1696-7 Anthony left Wells, joined his young family, and set up his blacksmith forge and home at Sandwich, Barnstable County (MA). In November 1697, thirty two inhabitants of Rochester, Plymouth Colony, invited Anthony to come and be their blacksmith for seven years in return for forty acres at Rochester. He came to Rochester in early 1700. I believe that Sarah was born during their brief residence at Sandwich, but have not found a church or town record of her birth. (see: Anthony Coombs and Dorcas Woodin of Rochester, Massachusetts – Their Origins and Descendants, Otter Bay Books, Baltimore, MD, 2019, pp. 33-35 and 60.)
Whitney – I couldn’t agree more!