Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Partly Resolved Genealogical Problem

Toward a Solution to Problems in Tracing the Descendants of Jabez Whitney’s Second Wife, “Sally” [Not to be confused with Jabez Whitney born 1749 in Medfield, MA]

Jabez6 Whitney (Jacob5, Jonas4, Eleazar3, Thomas2, John1), and his two wives are buried in the Jones Cemetery of Orange, Massachusetts. The inscriptions on the grave markers there identify his wives as Elizabeth and Sally. She is called Sarah in Orange, MA vital records where her children’s births are registered, but, on her grave marker, it says “Sally V” according to the New England Historical and Genealogical Society’s Cemetery Transcriptions project. (Most of the information for this article comes either from my own research or from the “Whitney Research Group”

Elizabeth died Nov. 5, 1808; Jabez presumably married Sally thereafter because her first child, Cylenda (or Cylanda and many other variations—see below), was born Mar. 17, 1810.

Elizabeth and Sally’s last names are unknown. According to a handwritten document found in Massachusetts vital records in Boston, the 1822 birth certificate of William Whitney, one of Jabez and Sally’s sons, Sally’s maiden name appears to be Savoy, but this seems somewhat doubtful both because of the handwriting and because there is little record of the Savoy name in western Massachusetts at that time and no other record for a Sally or Sarah.

Here are Jabez’s two families:

(+=spouse, b=born, d=died, m=married, Abt.=about)

1 Jabez Whitney 1767-1849 b in Roxbury, MA d in Phillipston, MA
..+Elizabeth 1762-1808 m Abt. 1789 d in Orange, MA
........2 Abel Whitney 1790- Abt. 1820 b in Orange, MA
............+Sylvia Twitchel m 1810 in Athol, MA
........2 ? Whitney 1793-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Sally Whitney 1794-1815 b in Orange, MA d in Orange, MA
........2 Tina Whitney 1796-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Polly Whitney 1798-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Eliza Whitney 1799-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Lewis J. Whitney 1802-1881 b in Orange, MA d in Athol, MA
............+Ruth Howard 1803-1886 b in Athol, MA m 1824 in Athol, MA
........2 Jacob Whitney 1804-? b in Orange, MA
2nd Wife of Jabez Whitney:
..+Sally (Sarah?) Savoy (V.?) 1787–1846 m Abt. 1809 d in Orange, MA
........2 Cylenda (Cylanda?) Whitney 1810-1891 b in Orange, MA d in Winchendon, MA
............+Mason Baldwin Abt. 1811-? m Abt. 1832 b in Dover, VT
........2 Clancy Whitney 1811-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Abner Whitney 1813-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Moses Whitney 1816-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Sally Whitney 1818-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Philbrook Whitney 1820-? b in Orange, MA
........2 William B. Whitney 1822–1895 b in Orange, MA d in Athol, MA
............+Sarah Angelina Peabody 1825–1919 b in MA d in Athol, MA
........2 Daniel Whitney 1824-? b in Orange, MA
........2 Howard Whitney 1827-?

I am descended from Sally’s son William Whitney, but it was not until August 2005 that I met a descendant of William’s oldest sister, Cylenda, when I visited her great grandson, Raymond Clement (1917-), in Winchendon, MA. (Winchendon is almost five miles from the New Hampshire border and about twenty miles from Vermont.)

Cylenda Whitney Baldwin presents a common problem met when researching an ancestor with an unusual name in that nearly every record keeper she ever met took a crack at misspelling it. The index for the 1870 Federal census has “Crlend.” I suspect that the census taker was trying for “Celenda,” but, on the original enumeration sheet, the first “e” is unclear and the final “a” is faint. In the 1860 census she is called Cyndia (indexed as Cyncha H.), but often she seems to have been called Celinda (1880 census and other records). Cylenda Baldwin shows up in the federal censuses for Massachusetts in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880, living in Leyden (1850) and Winchendon, MA. In 1880, she was an elderly woman living near her daughter, Rosetta Tenney and her husband Fred.

Cylenda was married in 1832 or 1833 to Mason Baldwin (born about 1811 or 1812) of Dover, VT. Their children were:

Hubbard Hiram (or Hiram Hubbard) Baldwin 1833-1864 b VT d Winchester, VA
Eric G. Baldwin 1835-? *
Mary Jane Baldwin 1836-? b in VT
Cylenda Baldwin 1838-?
Mason W. Baldwin 1840-1884
Henry J.C. Baldwin 1841-? b in Dover, VT
Margana L. Baldwin 1844-?} twin
Mandana L. Baldwin 1844-?} twin
Wesley Brumwell Baldwin 1846-? **
Rosetta Harriet L. Baldwin 1857-1908 b in VT*** d in Winchendon, MA
+Frederick C. Tenney 1852-? b in New Hampshire m 1878 in Winchendon, MA

*Not listed among their children in all censuses. Possibly a nephew or other relative.
** a.k.a., Brumwell W., Bramhall W. or Bramwell W.
*** A.k.a., Harriet L.

[Children of Rosetta and Frederick Tenney:
Charles L. Tenney 1879-? b in MA
Bertha Tenney 1880-? b in MA
Ethel M. Tenney 1882–1977 b & d in MA

Ethel M. Tenney is the mother of Raymond Clement, mentioned above.]

Once we have accounted for various spellings of Cylenda’s name, it should become a little easier to trace the descendants of Cylenda Whitney Baldwin, although their names are not always legible or consistent as attested by the “a.k.a.s” listed above.

Federal census data for the family of Mason and Cylenda Baldwin reveals a curious pattern. They always appear in Massachusetts for the decennial census, but often their children are listed as having been born in Vermont, suggesting that the family moved back and forth across the state line. I have not been able to determine where the Baldwins lived when they were in Vermont, but since Henry and his father were both born in Dover, they might have gone back to that area.

Dover is about sixteen miles south of Londonderry, where the family of Winfield S. Wright lived. In 1879, one of Winfield’s sons, Albert H. Wright (1856-1906) married Cylenda Baldwin’s niece, Flora Almira Whitney (1861-1944), who was a daughter of William Whitney. It is tempting to imagine Cylenda being the matchmaker who introduced her neighbor’s son to her niece. According to a family legend among the Wrights, the Baldwins and Wrights were great friends, but whether this friendship preceded or followed the marriage of Albert Wright to Flora Whitney has been forgotten.

Civil War note:

Hiram Hubbard Baldwin and some other Baldwin sons were of the right age to have served in the Civil War; however, I have only established that Sgt. H. H. Baldwin of the 26th Massachusetts Regiment served and died in that war. He was killed during the pivotal Battle of Opequon near Winchester, VA on September 19, 1864, probably shortly before noon when Brig. Gen. Cuvier Grover’s division of the Nineteenth Corps—the first brigade of which included members of the 26th Massachusetts—emerged from some woods and was attacked by Confederate artillery as well as musket fire. The corps suffered its highest casualties of the entire war on that day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


More than a quarter century ago, a fellow I knew in the Boston area invited me to have dinner with him and his wife. When I arrived, I found my friend talking in his living room to a man in a jogging outfit—shorts, tank top, and, naturally, running shoes.

Jogging was a relatively new fad, but this man was all over it. He had read the few books then available about it, plus the journal and magazine articles also coming out. Finally, he said that he actually had to do some jogging before it got too late.After the jogging maven left, my friend asked me whether or not I would be surprised to learn that the fellow was a Harvard graduate. I allowed that I did not think it surprising, especially considering that we were sitting no more than a mile from the campus of that world-famous university.

“No,” my friend persisted, “I mean: is there anything in his attitude, his behavior, that would lead you to conclude that he might be a Harvard graduate?”

Being dense as I often am when I’m not really paying attention—or else having just been bored by someone discussing jogging—I didn’t follow his line. Patiently, my friend noted that the earlier guest had become interested in a subject and had made a point of going out and reading everything about it that he could get his hands on.

“That is typical of a Harvard graduate,” my friend concluded. Obviously, anyone could do that without the cost of Harvard’s tuition.


The catch is that it requires more than an indiscriminate capacity for reading. It requires a mental discipline designed to weed out nonsense from fact, the incredible from the credible. There is no substitute for going back to basics. If you are going to study a topic about which you know nothing, it would be a mistake to jump in over your head, to be too proud to pick up a book or an article aimed at grade-schoolers. You cannot reliably learn anything or evaluate your information sources if you do not understand them.

If you are going to read about science, and you do not understand the scientific method, you had better go back and learn it; the same is true if you are going to study an historical topic: be sure you understand the historical method of inquiry. (Both the scientific and historical method have to do, ultimately, with probable truth; in science, the experiment is repeated until a statistical analysis can determine whether the results are significant. In history, where no experiment is usually possible, the question is whether enough reliable, primary (first-hand) sources corroborate a fact.)

Another graduate of an elite school, Vardis Fisher, a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in the 1920s, gave another helpful hint about evaluating what one reads in a course of self-directed study. He said that he would read a book on a topic of interest and, if his trained intuition told him that the author knew what he was talking about, Fisher would make a list of the other authors who were consulted in writing the book and noted what the author thought of these sources. Fisher then asked librarians for these other books, and when, in turn, he saw the bibliographies of those books, he would order them, too.

Of course, Fisher’s method is not foolproof by any means. Perhaps the greatest problem he ran into was that, as he pushed further and further into the authoritative books of earlier generations, he was reading out-dated opinions in many cases. On some topics, he became a twentieth-century man with the best information that the nineteenth century could offer. It helps to consult current journals, then, to find out what those who stand on the shoulders of those earlier sources are thinking. In the end, self-directed study can be as effective as—or even more effective than—traditional other-directed studies, but the key is learning how to think about what you are studying. Without someone to teach you how to think, learning how to do so should be your first objective in self-directed study. Of course, the best way to learn is by doing. Jump into a subject and learn how to think as you go. Also, learning how to think is not something you will one day master; you should continue to learn about it for the rest of your life.