One more!

Courtesy of

An example of how a final spouse might be overlooked occurred when I was researching a “double Lippitt” spouse, Zurial Potter Arnold (1795–1865) of Eastford, Connecticut.[1] Zurial was married to two daughters of Moses and Anstress (Holden) Lippitt of Killingly, Connecticut. He first married Ann Lippitt in 1816; she died in 1823. He then married Ann’s sister Hannah in 1824. I found a reference to Zurial’s 1865 death on findagrave, which showed he was buried near a total of four wives, as also shown below in the Charles R. Hale Collection of Connecticut Cemetery Inscriptions.

In the same year Hannah died, in 1833, he married Susan Franklin, who died in 1859; finally, in 1860, Zurial married Mary K. Whitmore, who died in 1862. Zurial died three years later and I found his death in the Eastford Vital Records. However I noticed on the death record that he was listed as married rather than widowed. His 1865 will left his wife Lucy the use and improvement of all of his real and personal estate. I quickly found in the Eastford Vital Records the 1863 marriage between Zurial Arnold and Lucy Williams, which listed this only as Zurial’s second marriage, when it was actually his fifth![2]

While none of this was particularly hard to find, I thought this fifth wife Lucy could very well be a final spouse researchers might miss. Zurial is buried by his first four wives; his fourth wife died in 1862 and he only died three years later. Lucy returned to her native Brooklyn, Connecticut, and lived with her brother Martin Herrick Williams (with whom she had lived before her marriage), and only appeared in these above two Eastford records – 1) her marriage in 1863 and 2) her husband’s will in 1865 – which are of course between the federal censuses. It does not appear Lucy used her husband’s land, as stated in the will, and Connecticut did not have a state census.

Connecticut marriages between 1850 and statewide registration in 1897 still do not have a truly complete statewide index, and of course, for many others states, the availability of records for this period is not always generous. Even in the states that do have death records, marital status of the deceased is not always indicated.

So don’t necessarily think your ancestor is done after several marriages with only a few years left in his or her life. He (or she) might go for one more!


[1] Zurial Potter Arnold entry,

[2] Thompson Vital Records, 1: 99 (first marriage, at Killingly); Killingly Vital Records, 1: 104 (second marriage); Ashford Vital Records, 5: 51 (third marriage); Chaplin Vital Records, 3: 5 (fourth marriage); Eastford Vital Records, 2-C: 8 (Susan’s death), 10 (Mary’s death), 13 (Zurial’s death), 2-B: 13 (fifth marriage); Will of Zurial P. Arnold, dated 2 Oct., proved 19 Oct. 1865, Eastford, 1865, Eastford District, No. 15; gravestone transcriptions above and findagrave photographs above.

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.

4 thoughts on “One more!

  1. Chris, I had a similar problem with a 20th century relative – younger sister of my great-grandmother. I kept finding more husbands for her – managed to find the final one only in property records (from the 1940s – online, thank goodness at Family Search)….which then (finally) allowed me to locate an obituary and DOD. Her own descendants didn’t know what had become of her, even though she died as recently as 1962!

  2. This is great stuff Chris! Of course in my family the first and second marriages were always kept a secret and never talked about until decades after all the interested parties had passed way. However it is still considered some sort of a ‘success’ to be buried with all one’s wives – some sort of sign one was prosperous? To me it seems that the women just were worked into early graves. Just Kansas I guess. 🙂

  3. I love the things that gravestone inscriptions can reveal that aren’t obvious in the paper record until you know what to look for. I found a couple extra wives for one of my gggrandfathers that my family just did not bother to mention. For some reason.

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