Who was the father of Joseph MERRILL
who married Lucinda WHITNEY and died in 1844?
Deane W. MERRILL Jr.
revised 29 December 2007
It has been stated that Joseph MERRILL, who married Lucinda WHITNEY and died
in Shelburne Falls in 1844, was the Joseph born in
1769 to Nathaniel5 MERRILL (John4, Nathaniel3,2)
This finding was published in a 1990 research paper prepared for Ted D.
Merrill by Roger D. Joslyn, C.G., F.A.S.G., "The Children and
Grandchildren of Nathaniel Merrill and his son Benjamin Merrill." That
paper was circulated by Ted Merrill to dozens of libraries, and portions of its
findings were copied to later secondary sources.
We find, however, that the Joseph MERRILL who married Lucinda WHITNEY and
died in 1844 was instead born in 1773 to Nathaniel's brother Daniel5
b.1729. Our reasoning is as follows:
Concerning the Joseph MERRILL who married Lucinda WHITNEY and died in
1844, we have:
From Vital Records of Shelburne, Massachusetts 1756-1985 (see note A) (fiche 4, volume 2,
page 18): "Joseph Merrill born in Deerfield
March 25 1773; married to Lucinda Whitney in Shelburne 1794; Widow Merrill
(Eunice FELLOWS, see below) his mother died Feb(?) 5 1817." Thereafter
follows information about Joseph's and Lucinda's children Fanny, Rhodolphus,
Joseph, Alanson, Emily, and Moses W. MERRILL. This source establishes Joseph's
1773 birth date and birthplace, and his mother's death date. In the printed
volume through 1849 (see Note B) this record is abstracted in two separate
records, as follows: "Joseph MERRILL, b.at Deerfield,
Mar. 27, 1773"; and " ___ MERRILL, wid., mother of Joseph, Feb. 5,
1817." Joseph's March 27 birthdate in the printed volume is
erroneous. The date is clearly March 25
in the original handwritten record.
From Vital Records of Shelburne,
Massachusetts 1756-1985 (see note
A) (fiche 20, volume 7, page not numbered): "Deaths in Shelburne during
the year next preceding the 1st of May 1845. Entry No. 7, registered
Oct. 2nd 1844, Joseph Merrill, Married Male, age at death 71 years,
6 months, 4 days; tavern keeper, died Sept 29 1844, interred Shelburne Falls,
cause of death: general dropsy, born Deerfield, parents' name not given,
informant's name not given." In the printed volume through 1849 (see Note
B) this record is abstracted as follows: " Joseph MERRILL, m., tavern
keeper, b. Deerfield, general dropsy, bur. Shelburne Falls,
d. Sept. 29, 1844, a. 71 y. 6 m. 4 d." This source confirms Joseph's March
25, 1773 birth date.
From Joseph's and Lucinda's tombstone in Arms Cemetery,
Shelburne Falls, MA: "Joseph Merrill d. Sept.29, 1844 age 71; Lucinda
Whitney his wife d.Jan.29, 1857 age 82." This source confirms Joseph's
1773 birth year.
From Deerfield church baptism records (see
Note C): "Oct 10 1773 Joseph Son to Daniel Merril + his wife." In the
printed volume to 1850 (see Note D) this record is abstracted as follows:
"Merril, Joseph, s. of Daniel and ___, bp. Oct 10, 1773." Assuming
the Joseph baptized in Deerfield in October 1773 is the same as the Joseph born
in Deerfield in March 1773, this source
confirms Joseph's father's name Daniel.
From A Merrill Memorial (see Note E): #40, page 219: "John4
MERRILL (Nathaniel3,2) born 12 Feb. 1706/7 m. Lydia Gage. Children
include: #248 Daniel5 b. 2 June 1729 ... #250 Nathaniel5
b. 26 Feb. 1731/2." This secondary source identifies Daniel5
and Nathaniel5 as brothers. The primary source is the vital records
Ibid., #248, page 300: "Daniel5 MERRILL (John4,
Nathaniel3,2) b. 2 June 1729 .. m(2) 27 Sept. 1766, Eunice Fellows,
daughter of Samuel and Eunice Fellows." This secondary source identifies
Eunice FELLOWS as the wife of Daniel5 MERRILL. (But in A Merrill
Memorial, Joseph6 b.1773 is not listed with Daniel5's
other children.) Primary sources are not given.
Ibid., #250, page 301: "Nathaniel5 MERRILL (John4,
Nathaniel3,2) b. 26 Feb. 1731/2 .. m(1) 7 Nov. 1754 Anna
Baldwin." Children include Joseph6 b.17 July 1769, and (by an
unknown second wife) "Polly6 m. Long; lived Shelburne."
This secondary source identifies Joseph6 b.1769 as the son of
Nathaniel5 b.1731/2, and half-brother of a Polly. Primary sources
are not given.
From Shelburne Town Records at the Town Hall, Shelburne, Massachusetts: In
1780, the 8th Shelburne School District included the following families living
in close proximity: Deacon Samuel Fellows (Eunice's father); Samuel Fellows
Jr., Thomas Fellows, and John Fellows (Eunice's brothers); Daniel Merril
(Eunice's husband) and Thaddeus Merril (Daniel's nephew). Thaddeus' father Nathaniel
was elsewhere, probably fighting the British troops. This source establishes
that the families of the two MERRILL brothers, Daniel5 b.1729 and
Nathaniel5 b.1731/2, were in close proximity in 1780. From land
records at Franklin County Court House in Greenfield,
Massachusetts, a number of land
exchanges in Rowe and Shelburne in the 1790's, involving FELLOWS and MERRILL,
provide further evidence of their closeness.
Massachusetts Births to the End of 1849: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~hubbard/haverhill/births_m.html
Daniel, s. John and Lydia (Gage),
June 2, 1729.
Sarah, d. John and Lydia
(Gage), July 14, 1730.
Nathaniel, s. John and Lydia
(Gage), Feb. 26, 1731-2.
Martha, d. John and Lydia
(Gage), Feb. 27, 1732-3.
Moses, s. John and Lydia
(Gage), Sept. 10, 1735.
Abigail, d. John and Lydia
(Gage), June 11, 1737
Lydia, d. Daniel and Abigial
John, s. Daniel and Abigail (Carlton),
Nov. 8, 1752.
This source establishes Daniel's relationship to his parents and five of his
siblings. We have not examined the proof
that Daniel b.1729 is the same Daniel who married Abigail Carlton.
Concerning Joseph6 MERRILL b.1769, the son of Nathaniel5
b.1731/2, we have:
From Birth records of Westminster,
MA (printed volume through 1850):
" Joseph MERRILL, s. Nathaniel and Anna, July 17, 1769."
From Vital records of Rowe,
MA (see Note F): (fiche 9, pg.
97): "On Nov. 26, 1789, Preserved Smith married Joseph Merrill to Polly
Benton/Denton." Polly's maiden name has been quoted as DENTON and DENSON. We believe BENTON is likely, because numerous BENTON family members were living nearby.
From Vital records of Rowe,
MA (see Note F): (fiche 4, pg.
40): "Births in the Family of Joseph and Polly Merril: Joseph Merril Jr.
was born July 11th 1790. Polly Merril was born Dec. 20th 1791; Deaths in Joseph
Merril Family: Joseph Merril died August 8th 1792." It is not clear
whether Joseph Sr. or Joseph Jr. died in 1792.
From Vital records of Rowe, MA (see Note F): (fiche 1, pg. 44): "The
intention of Marriage between Ambrose Potter Jr. and Polly Merril both of Rowe
was entered July 31 1796; Marriage was consummated between Ambrose Potter Jr
and Polly Merril both of Rowe Sept 7th 1796." (fiche 9, pg.
74): "Ambrose Potter Jr. and Polly Merrill both of Rowe, marriage
consummated Sep. 7, 1796…" This Polly Merril, Ambrose's second wife; could
be Joseph MERRILL's widow, if Joseph Sr. b.1769 rather than Joseph Jr. b.1790
died in 1792. Or it could be Joseph's half-sister Polly MERRILL who married a
Long in Shelburne, or another Polly Merril.
From Vital records of Rowe, MA (see Note F): (fiche 4, pg. 41): "Births
in the family of Ambrose Potter Jr. & his two first wives Hannah &
Polly: An Infant Born of Hannah Potter March 26 1793; Ambrose Potter 3d an
Illegitimate Child Born of Rebeca Foster March 2 1801; Hannah Born of Polly 3d
wife April 24 1806; Deaths in the Family of Ambrose Potter Jr.: Hannah Potter
died April 2d 1793; An Infant Born of Hannah Potter died March 26 1793; Polly
Potter died March 2d 1797." The child of Ambrose and his first wife Hannah
died at birth, and Hannah died a week later. The Polly Potter who died in 1797
could be either Ambrose's second wife Polly BENTON Merrill Potter, or his
stepdaughter Polly MERRILL b.1791 if the latter assumed the Potter name upon
her mother's second marriage, or another Polly Potter. Quite possibly it was
Ambrose's second wife Polly BENTON Merrill Potter, because Ambrose fathered a
child by Rebeca Foster in 1801, and had a third wife Polly by 1806.
From Rowe Land records at Franklin County Court House, Greenfield
Massachusetts: In January 1795, Nathaniel MERRILL sold 40 acres of land to
Joseph and Lucinda MERRILL, which they sold five months later to Joseph LAZELL.
Roger Joslyn cited this transaction as evidence that Joseph the husband of
Lucinda was Joseph6 b.1769, the son of Nathaniel5.
However, from the vital records it is clear that Joseph the husband of Lucinda
was Joseph6 1773-1844, the son of Daniel5. Nathaniel sold
his land to his nephew and not to his son.
Based on the Rowe vital records cited above, we suggest the following
scenario: Joseph6 MERRILL b.1769 married in 1789 Polly BENTON, then
fathered by her a son Joseph MERRILL in 1790 and a daughter Polly MERRILL in
1791, and then he died in 1792. Joseph's widow Polly BENTON Merrill married in
1796 Ambrose POTTER Jr. and then she died in 1797. The later whereabouts of
Joseph MERRILL b.1790 and Polly MERRILL b.1791 are unknown. However, this
scenario is not conclusively proven. We have not studied all available sources.
Errors in secondary sources:
Based on our analysis, we believe that the following secondary sources
should be corrected as indicated:
- Roger D. Joslyn, C.G.,
F.A.S.G., 35 Union Avenue, New Windsor, NY 12553-7103, phone 845-565-8630,
email firstname.lastname@example.org (address
still current in Nov 2007).
"The Children and Grandchildren of Nathaniel Merrill and his
son Benjamin Merrill," prepared 3 March 1990 for Ted D. Merrill. We
have shown above that Lucinda WHITNEY was the wife of Joseph MERRILL
1773-1844 the son of Daniel MERRILL b.1729, and not of Joseph MERRILL
b.1769, the son of Nathaniel MERRILL b.1731/2. Possibly Joseph
MERRILL b.1769, rather than his son Joseph MERRILL b.1790, died in Rowe, MA
on August 8, 1792.
- Ted D. Merrill, 800 State
Line Drive, Chaparral, NM 88021, phone 719-447-4825, email email@example.com; Ancestral
File v.4.19, updated 3/22/1999, at http://www.familysearch.org.
Same corrections as for Joslyn.
Note: Ted D. Merrill died in April 2002. Peggy Dillon Lewis, P.O. Box 429, Jasper,
4/15/1992 letter to Howard and Jean Merrill, 5045 Sequoia Drive, Baton Rouse, LA
70814, 504-275-2917, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph MERRILL b.1769 did not marry Lucinda WHITNEY on July 3,
1794. Probably this is the Joseph MERRILL who married Polly BENTON
in Rowe, MA on Nov. 26, 1789. Note: Mrs. Lewis died in August 2004.
- Daniel Francis X. O'Reilly, email@example.com. Database 118230 (6643
individuals, 5/19/2000) at http://www.ancestry.com
also database 305506 (7106 individuals, 8/15/2000) at http://www.ancestry.com; also
database oreilly1 (9/21/2000) at http://www.mytrees.com.
Joseph MERRILL b.1769 did not die in Shelburne Falls, MA
on September 29, 1844. Possibly he died in Rowe, MA
on August 8, 1792. Possibly Joseph's (b.1769) widow Polly MERRILL
Potter, rather than his sister Mary Polly MERRILL, died in Rowe, MA
on March 2, 1797.
How could so many secondary sources have failed to identify Lucinda
WHITNEY's husband Joseph MERRILL as the son of Daniel5 MERRILL?
- Lucinda's Joseph was simply
omitted from A Merrill Memorial, no doubt because his parents
removed from Haverhill to Deerfield
before his birth, and he could not be placed. Unfortunately, primary
sources are not cited in A Merrill Memorial.
- The printed volume of
Shelburne vital records through 1849 unfortunately separates birth records
from marriage records. The association between Joseph's birth record (1773
in Deerfield) and his marriage record
(1794 to Lucinda WHITNEY in Shelburne) is unambiguous in the original
handwritten family record.
- In the record of Joseph's
death in 1844, the names of Joseph's parents are unfortunately omitted, as
is the name of the informant.
- My grandfather, Charles9
Arthur MERRILL 1875-1968, believed that he was a direct descendant of
Nathaniel5 MERRILL b.1731/2, and that this ancestry entitled
him to belong to the Sons of the American Revolution. The obituary of his
father Cordeanio8 Harley MERRILL 1840-1908 (Springfield, Mass. Republican,
Nov. 19, 1908) stated (incorrectly): "(Cordeanio's) father (Moses7
Whitney MERRILL 1817-1859) was the son of Nathaniel Merrill, who served in
the Revolution from 1775 to 1777, and was at Bunker Hill and Fort Ticonderoga." In a handwritten
notation, my grandfather corrected the word "son" to
"grandson!" In fact, Moses7 was a grandson of
Nathaniel5's brother Daniel5. By consulting several
different sources, my father, Deane10 Whitney MERRILL 1908-1987
in 1976 correctly deduced that Joseph6's father was Daniel5
and not Nathaniel5 (see jos_father.html),
but he failed to consult the original handwritten Shelburne vital records,
which provide the necessary proof.
- Apparently Roger Joslyn also
neglected to consult the original Shelburne records, because Daniel's line
was not the focus of his investigation.
- Joslyn simply assumed,
incorrectly, that Nathaniel must have sold the Rowe lot to his son Joseph
rather than his nephew Joseph.
- From the printed Shelburne
records through 1849, one cannot tell that the two separate entries.
"Joseph MERRILL, b.at Deerfield,
Mar. 27, 1773"; and " ___ MERRILL, wid., mother of Joseph, Feb.
5, 1817" refer to the same Joseph.
To obtain this important information one must consult the original
- There is no printed volume of
Rowe vital records through 1849. To pick up the clues regarding Polly
Benton/Denton's probable marriage to Joseph (b.1769) in 1789, and Joseph's
possible demise in 1792, one must consult the original handwritten Rowe
- Ted D. Merrill copied from
Roger Joslyn, whom he hired to do the research. We contacted Mr. Joslyn, who told us he
destroyed his research notes ( ! ) after completing the research for Ted
- Apparently Peggy Dillon Lewis
and Daniel Francis X. O'Reilly copied from other sources. The source of
their information, specifically regarding the father of Lucinda WHITNEY's
husband Joseph MERRILL, is not indicated.
The lessons learned from this investigation are (1) to mistrust family
hearsay and newspaper obituaries (2) to consult primary sources, and (3) to
cite the source of all information.
A: Vital Records of Shelburne, Massachusetts, 1756-1985, on 52 microfiches in the
Library of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) in Deerfield, MA.
Fiches 31-52 cover 1895-1985. The first 30 fiches, with indexes extended to
1985, were copied from 26 original fiches: MASSACHUSETTS VITAL RECORDS: SHELBURNE
1756-1895, from Oxford, Massachusetts: Holbrook Research Institute,
1987, LC 82-81851, ISBN 0-87623-050-8 (ISBN 0-931248-23-X Set), 30- to
35-frame, double-image format at 25X & 30X reduction, 10 volumes on 26
(original) microfiches, Jay Mack Holbrook.
B: Vital records of Shelburne,
Massachusetts, to the end of the
year 1849. Salem, Mass., Published by the Essex Institute,
C: Records of the Church in Deerfield, Massachusetts, 1731-1810, on
microfilm in the Library of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) in
Deerfield, MA: call number M 974.42 D312 reel 10, including: "…names of
children baptized after the death of Revd. Mr. John Williams by ministers
preaching here before the resettlement of the ordinances of Christ; the
children whose names are hereafter mentioned were baptized after the ordination
November 8, 1732 by the pastor of this church November 12, 1732 - March 13,
D: Vital records of Deerfield,
Massachusetts, to the year 1850. Boston, Mass.,
E: A Merrill Memorial, Vols. I and II, by Samuel Merrill, Cambridge,
Mass., 1917-1928. Reprinted in 1983 by Parker
River Researchers, P.O. Box 86, Newburyport, Mass.
01950. Reprinted by
Anundsen Publishing Co., 108
Washington Street, Decorah, Iowa 52101.
F: Vital Records of Rowe, Massachusetts,
1774-1848, on 9 microfiches in the Library of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial
Association (PVMA) in Deerfield,
MA. MASSACHUSETTS VITAL RECORDS
TO 1850: ROWE 1774-1848, from Oxford, Massachusetts: Holbrook Research
Institute, 1983, LC 82-081851, ISBN 0-931248-32-9 (ISBN 0-931248-23-X Set), 9
microfiche, 419 images filmed on 16mm planetary camera at 25X and 30X
reduction, Jay Mack Holbrook.
Deane Whitney MERRILL Jr. (b.1938)96 Beverly Road
Asheville NC 28805
The author is a great-great-great-grandson of Joseph6 (Daniel5,
John4, Nathaniel3,2) MERRILL (1773-1844) and Lucinda
WHITNEY (1776-1857). See http://merrill.olm.net/ancestor2/merrill.html.
Related link: Who were the parents of
Thaddeus MERRILL 1777-1855?
Back to Genealogy of Deane Whitney
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