Almost a year ago, I posted a message about, what I considered, my worst brick wall. It was about the wife of Nathaniel5 (Samuel4 William3-2 George1) Wallis of Greenland, Epsom and Moultonborough, N.H. Unlike some other stuck places in my ancestry, I had no leads on her whatsoever. Judging by the time frame and the work I had done to date, I was sure that it was impossible to track her down.
As I've mentioned I discovered the death certificate of one of her children. Massachusetts death records start ca. 1850 and can give a wealth of information including parents' names and places of birth. This certificate from Haverhill dated 11 June 1861 [Massachusetts Deaths for 1861, 147:198] shows that Joseph was a widower, farmer, aged 80, born in Epsom, with a father named Nathaniel Wallace born in Greenland, N.H. and a mother named Deborah (---) born in Kittery, Maine. In a perfect world, her maiden name would have been given, but as I look at all the entries on that page, none of the maiden names of the mothers are given. The question must have been: Parents names? Answer: Nathaniel and Deborah. Done.
However, this was new and important information. The accuracy of death certificates always have to be questioned since the decedent is not the person filling out the information. However, the birth place of Joseph as Epsom is correct and the birth place of his father Nathaniel as Greenland is correct. We have the baptism of Nathaniel in Greenland in 1746 to back this up. It, therefore, seems quite probable that Deborah's birth place was also correct. How to find her is now the problem. The only other piece of information we have on Deborah is her relative age. In the 1830 census she is given (unnamed of course) as aged 80 to 90. So is her husband. If accurate, she was born 1740-1750. Her children are born from 1772 (eldest) to 1792 (youngest). The 1772 date of Samuel Wallis is from his Bible record as reprinted at NEHGR 67 (1913):271-2. The 1792 is based on Deborah (Wallis) Whipple's ages in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. So, if a very young 16 at marriage in 1771, she was born ca. 1755. If a very old 50 when she gave birth last in 1792, she was born ca. 1742. Given all these parameters, you can set her probable birth between 1742 and 1750.
Using my new "imperfect" system of culling available females from Ancestry. com, I looked at all females named Deborah born between 1742 and 1754 in Kittery, Maine. There is only one that is not given a husband. She is Deborah Berry, baptized at Kittery on 8 December 1745, the daughter of Josiah4 (George3 James2 William1) and Mary (Hidden) Berry. On the surface, this seemed like a good match. It would mean that Nathaniel and Deborah were third cousins through the Wallis family [the wife of James2 Berry was Eleanor Wallis]. The Berrys had family ties to Greenland as well. She was the right age and born in the right place. All in all, she was a worthwhile candidate to explore.
Sadly, I can find no evidence to either prove or disprove this relationship. Indeed, I have found almost nothing on this family. Using basic genealogical records, there is nothing: no vital records, church records, land records, probate records, etc. In a separate posting, I will explore what is known of Josiah Berry. For now, the pros and cons are these:
- We know Deborah was born in Kittery sometime between 1742 and 1750. Deborah Berry was baptized at Kittery on 8 December 1745. She would be about 25 at marriage; 26 at the birth of her first child and 46 at the birth of her last child. In the 1830 census she would be 84.
- There is no husband given for Deborah.
- There are no records for the family of Josiah beyond the baptisms of his children. He was poor and his estate when administered in 1792 was worth only 17 pounds (and change). Therefore, whatever he would have given a daughter was done so during his lifetime.
- The two families would have known each other.
- There is no marriage record for Nathaniel and Deborah. None in Kittery Vital Records or in the Late Returns for York County, Maine. None in neighboring Berwick, York, or Wells. None in Portsmouth, Greenland, or Rye, N.H. Barrington, N.H. marriages start in 1777 and therefore, are, as always, worse than useless.
- Nathaniel and Deborah don't name any children Josiah or Mary. On the other they also don't name a daughter Phebe, Nathaniel's known mother. They name their daughters Elizabeth, Meribah, and Deborah.
- Neither Nathaniel nor any of his children use familial middle names that might support this conclusion such as Berry, Hidden, Haley or Crockett.
- There are no grantor or grantee deeds for Nathaniel or Deborah Wallis in York County, Maine, quitclaiming land.
On the one hand the lack of evidence makes this identification seem unlikely. And yet, it is precisely that lack of evidence which has me convinced that the identification is true. If a marriage record existed, someone long before me would have pieced this together. In other words, if the "easy" evidence of genealogy were extant, we wouldn't be having this discussion. If Josiah Berry left a will, even if in York Co., Maine, naming a daughter Deborah Wallis, someone would have written this up long ago. The fact is the Berry family of Kittery is a poor family that lived well under the radar, leaving very few records at all. The only reason to make this identification is the tie-in between a baptism in Kittery and a death record 120 years later two states over. No one has ever put those two records together before.
I have a few research choices left, but they are "hail Mary passes."
- I can check the death record at Haverhill to see if a maiden name was given that was left off the state record
- I can check the death records of Nathaniel Wallis in Ossipee, N.H. and his sister Elizabeth (Wallis) Drew in Holderness, N.H. Neither appear in the state level N.H. death records. Perhaps the records exist on a town level.
- Court records for York County, Maine. They are online (indexed) only to 1740. They exist in manuscript form at the NEHGS library from 1729-1792. From 1792 onwards, I would have to go either the Maine State Archives or the York County Court House.
- Court records from either Rockingham or Strafford, N.H. counties.
Sadly, I know these are the last chances. I have checked everything else including newspaper records.