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) b.1731/2.

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, Lucinda, Roswell, 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 of Haverhill (see below).

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.

From Haverhill. 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 (Carlton), May 10, 1751.
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:

  1. Roger D. Joslyn, C.G., F.A.S.G., 35 Union Avenue, New Windsor, NY 12553-7103, phone 845-565-8630, email rdjoslyn@juno.com (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.
  2. Ted D. Merrill, 800 State Line Drive, Chaparral, NM 88021, phone 719-447-4825, email tdmerr@earthlink.net; 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, GA 30143. 4/15/1992 letter to Howard and Jean Merrill, 5045 Sequoia Drive, Baton Rouse, LA 70814, 504-275-2917, email hjmerril@eatel.net. 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.
  3. Daniel Francis X. O'Reilly, dfxor@tiac.net. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Apparently Roger Joslyn also neglected to consult the original Shelburne records, because Daniel's line was not the focus of his investigation.
  6. Joslyn simply assumed, incorrectly, that Nathaniel must have sold the Rowe lot to his son Joseph rather than his nephew Joseph.
  7. 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 handwritten records.
  8. 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 vital records.
  9. 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 D. Merrill
  10. 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, 1931.

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, 1785;…"

D: Vital records of Deerfield, Massachusetts, to the year 1850. Boston, Mass., 1920.

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 Merrill (1938-)

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