Related in many ways

William Chapin bench
William Chapin’s bench

A nice example of genealogical good fortune came my way as a result of a past blog post I wrote regarding my search for family photos.

The comment, written nearly a year afterward, was from Nancy Chapin:

Nancy Chapin comment

I knew exactly who William Porter Chapin was and was quite excited about the connection. My middle name of Challender is actually the first middle name in my patrilineal line that is an ancestral surname. (It’s my mother’s maiden name.) The first middle name of my Child ancestors was my great-great-grandfather Asa Thurston Child, who was named for a well-known New England missionary in Hawaii, but one who is not a relative. (Thurston continued as a middle name for his son and great-grandson.)

I grew up hearing the story of the “shoemaker’s bench of William Chapin.”

The other middle name was Chapin, the name given my father and his grandfather – William Chapin Child. My father had told me that William Chapin of Providence, Rhode Island, was a second cousin to my great-great-grandfather, Henry Thurston Child of Woodstock, Connecticut, and they were good friends, so much so that Henry Child named his fourth son (my great-grandfather), after him. William Chapin was a shoemaker in Providence, and he gave his namesake cousin one of his benches, which in turn was given to his namesake grandson (my father), so I grew up hearing the story of the “shoemaker’s bench of William Chapin.”

Years ago I traced the genealogy of my great-grandfather’s namesake. The closest way that William Porter Chapin and Henry Thurston Child were related was, as stated above, as second cousins: their maternal grandmothers Almira (Kendall) Morse and Tryphena (Kendall) Lyon were sisters. However, in going back in the ancestry of William’s mother and of Henry T. Child, I realized these two families were related a lot, in more ways than one. Chapin happened to be one of the few families behind William that was not in Henry’s ancestry.

In looking at Henry’s ancestors, it gets complicated very quickly…

Just looking at the ancestry of William’s mother Eliza Eaton Morse only (his father, Charles Perry Chapin of Worcester, Massachusetts, was not a Woodstock native), and comparing it to the entire ancestry of Henry T. Child within several generations, I realized that 15/16ths of Eliza’s ancestors were also ancestors of Henry T. Child. The only group of Eliza’s forebears whose ancestors were not common to Henry was her great-great-grandmother Mehitable (Holbrook) May.

Click on image to expand it.

In looking at Henry’s ancestors, it gets complicated very quickly, in part due to the large proportion of endogamy in Henry Child’s ancestry. The complex chart above illustrates how, in both directions, Eliza and Henry shared a large amount of their ancestry, with the single ancestor of Eliza not in common with Henry in green, and the near dozen of Henry’s distant ancestors not in common with Eliza in red. Of Henry’s total ancestry, only 15/64ths (just under 25%) was not in common with Eliza. So despite the fact that the closest kinship between William Chapin and Henry Child was second cousins, they clearly had a lot more family in common.  Nancy also found letters in which William Chapin’s brother referred to Henry’s mother as “Aunt Roxanna.”

The below picture, provided by my newfound fifth cousin once removed Nancy Chapin – of the two cousins and their sons, including my great-grandfather, William Chapin’s namesake – is certainly one of the most interesting family photographs that has surfaced for me as a result of writing for Vita Brevis.

Henry Thurston Child group
Henry Thurston Child’s 79th birthday party, 26 June 1925, at the Squantum Club in East Providence, Rhode Island. Pictured left to right: Henry J. Greene, Arthur O. Ostby, Henry T. Child, William P. Chapin, William C. Child, Robert C. Chapin. (Henry J. Greene was the son of Henry T. Child’s sister. Arthur O. Ostby was married to the sister of William P. Chapin’s wife.)

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

15 thoughts on “Related in many ways

    1. Thanks, Chris. Many of the surnames and at least one couple in your chart are in mine. I only have two Childs in my database (so far), but I descend from original immigrant Samuel Chapin via his daughter Catherine, who married Nathaniel Bliss. (I descend from Nathaniel’s sister Mary, too.) ‘Tis always a tangle of interconnections in early New England!

  1. Hi Christopher,
    What an interesting and fulfilling encounter through your post.
    I descend from a Morse line but I have to see if any of the ones in your graph can be match to any of the ones in mine.
    However, I have a question not related to that issue. How do you make the graph that you posted here? Is it from a special program? Do you use “lines and curves” in Microsoft Word?
    I have never been able to figure out how to do the tree that way. I can only do it with Roots Magic or Family Tree and those cannot be made small enough to send in a letter.
    I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
    Sincerely, Hilda

    1. I have seen similar charts when comparing Royal lines and trees where people were so often connected for political and economic reasons. If there isn’t an easily used program, there would be a market for it. It would be extremely useful to provide a visual.

      There is a program called Inspiration that would be very adaptable to this structuring.

      Jane H.

  2. Hi Christopher–
    Enjoyed your story and chart. We are very definitely related through my ggggggg grandparents Peter Morse and Priscilla Carpenter as well as 8+ generations back through Matthew Whipple and Anne Hawkins (the Whipples and Hoyts of Malone, New York and Woodstock). Woodstock was a small place. It is not surprising that anytime I read about Woodstock it seems I am related to someone way back!

  3. Thanks, Chris. Many of the surnames and one couple in your chart are in mine. I only have two Childs in my database, but I descend from immigrant ancestor Samuel Chapin, whose daughter Catherinef married Nathaniel Bliss. (I descend from Nathaniel’s sister Mary, too.)

  4. Chris, I really enjoyed your article. I am a Chapin descendent, though from Samuel Chapin through his son Japhet. I loved the photo of the shoemaker’s bench. We used to have a miniature one in our home when I was young and I have always been interested in shoemakers (having a shoemaker on another side of my family.) Thank you for sharing.

  5. Very interesting, Chris – I am descended from two Child sisters (Abigail & Dorothy, also daughters of Joshua Child & Elizabeth Morris on your chart). These Child sisters married Draper brothers and their offspring continued to marry various cousins within those families. My father descends from one subset & my mother from the other… there are also Chapins & Thurstons (Seth Chapin & Bethiah Thurston, through their son, Samuel). Furthermore, my paternal grandmother (through whom one of those Child/Draper lines runs) was a Glidden. How does one even identify the level of cousin-ness between you and I…? It all depends on which side you look at, but does terminology exist for those multiple levels of relation? I’ve heard of double cousins, but this gets so much more complex – you’re right that a chart is the best way to really see it all. BTW – I use Excel when I put these things together.

  6. Thank you for an interesting article and chart. We are related on several lines, as I also descend from Dorothy Child & Ebenezer Draper, the Readaways, Carpenters, and probably many others on your tree. Have you done autosomal DNA testing?

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