Monday, July 19, 2010

Exploring Vermont Records

When my ancestor Samuel Colman left Heath, Massachusetts about 1794 he journeyed to the wilderness in New York State. His older sister, Mary, and younger sisters, Elizabeth and Rachel, also married and began their families about this time. Mary remained in Heath, and Elizabeth and Rachel also moved to NY.

Their parents, Job and Elizabeth Martin Colman, died in the summer of 1805 in an epidemic that also claimed three of the four children still living at home. The probate file names sons John and Benjamin, who had already moved away at that time. Benjamin was listed as being "of Windsor" Vermont, which led me on my first journey into Vermont records.

Benjamin Colman was born in Shelburne, Massachusetts on 9 October, 1780. He was the eighth of eleven known children in the family, most of whom arrived like clockwork every two years. Another Benjamin had been born in 1776 and died a year later along with many other children in Shelburne.

The 1810 census of Stockbridge, Windsor County, Vermont includes Benjamin Coleman. By then he was 30 and is listed with his wife and three boys and a girl, all under 10. The Town Clerk in Stockbridge was able to provide more details about this family. The daughter would have been Rhoda, listed in the town records as born 1 November 1805. Benjamin's sister named Rhoda had died in July. Identifying a five-year-old leads to an assumption that one of the boys might have been older than Rhoda and two younger.

Another daughter, Mary, was born on 17 May 1820. The 1820 census of Stockbridge lists three girls under 10. One could have been the infant Mary, depending on when the census was taken. One girl between 10 and 16 was enumerated in the household, who would have been Rhoda. The two boys listed under 16 would be the two under five in 1810. The older boy is not listed. He could have been 17 or older by then. It is interesting to note that one is checked for "engaged in manufacture."

In 1830 the family is again listed in Stockbridge. In addition, a John Colman is also listed one line removed from Benjamin. There are 2 males 20 - 30 and a 20 to 30-year-old woman and another girl 10 to 15. This could be the older boys who were enumerated in 1810 as under 10, one of whom was married by then. We could extrapolate that John was about 23. Who is the young girl? Benjamin's listing does not include any girls of 10, which would have been Mary's age. Could she have been with her brother? Benjamin's family includes a boy under 10, so their last child would have been a boy. Two girls are 10 - 15 and one is 15 - 20.

In 1831 Benjamin's wife Betsey died at the age of 50. She is buried in Maplewood Cemetery on the Stockbridge town common. In 1832 he bought an acre of land that bordered on the Burying Ground, "the farm that the said Colman now lives in." The land sold again in 1835, when Benjamin was said to be "of Rochester." He had bought land in Rochester in 1834. Rochester abuts Stockbridge to the northwest, and the Burying Ground on the common is fairly near the border.

With four or five children still living at home, Benjamin may have remarried relatively soon. The 1840 census lists him in Rochester with a new wife, with a boy 15 to 20 and a girl 5 to 10. We know his second wife was named Rachel, from her headstone in the Maplewood Cemetery, side by side with Betsey. She is listed in the 1850 census of Rochester with a daughter Rachel J. The value of her real estate was $300. Benjamin is listed on the mortality schedule, but his death was not recorded with the clerk. Seventeen-year-old Rachel had been to school within the year. That makes Rachel's date of birth about 1833, indicating that Benjamin and Rachel had married within about a year of his first wife Betsey's death.

We don't know if Benjamin would have had contact with his siblings in New York state. The youngest, Zur, who survived the illness which took his parents and brother and two sisters, also went west to New York and ultimately to Michigan.

Some of Benjamin's children married and settled around him. John lost a young daughter [Hellen Marr, daughter of John & Eliza Colman died April 13, 1831], who is buried near his mother. Mary married Justin Beckwith in 1849, had a daughter Jennie in 1854 who died at 16 months, and is also buried in the same row. Mary, who died in 1867 at 47, is buried with Justin (d. 1855).

This exercise gives me a favorable impression of helpful VT clerks. Both Rochester and Stockbridge clerks responded by email, quickly, and with vital records and deed information. More digging may locate living relatives from this branch of the family tree.