Closer in time

General William Eaton (1764-1811). Courtesy of

Alicia’s post last week on certain advantages to older genealogies reminded me of an example where a published biography was the only contemporary source of a stated relationship (indirectly), despite the kinship being stated in numerous later genealogies.

In a post on my relatives – Tryphena and Tryphosa – I had mentioned that my ancestor Tryphena Eaton (1768–1849), was the daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah (Johnson) Eaton, and that Tryphena’s birth was not recorded.[1] Going back in time, Tryphena gets listed with these parents in Clarence Winthrop Bowen’s Genealogies of Woodstock Families, 4: 630–31 (written in 1932), which also says she married first Eli Kendall (1767–1808), and secondly, in 1809, Amos Paine (1766–1848), and also lists her older and younger siblings.

Fifty-two years earlier, in Paine Family Records, 1: 159, Tryphena is “inferred” these parents. In the section on Amos Paine, it indicates that he “married 2d, November 12, 1809, Mrs. Tryphena (Eaton) Kendall of Ashford, Conn. She was the sister of General William Eaton ….” William Eaton has a recorded birth in Woodstock on 23 February 1764, son of Nathaniel and Sarah.[2] (More on him later.) But in terms of contemporary genealogical documents, is there anything that says Tryphena (Eaton) (Kendall) Paine was the daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah (Johnson) Eaton?

1) No birth record

2) No first marriage record to Eli Kendall

3) Eight children born in Woodstock or Ashford, Connecticut between 1789 and 1803, gathered from vital, cemetery, and newspaper records, including a son William Eaton Kendall in 1800. But not surprisingly, no records list the mother’s maiden name.

4) Second marriage at Woodstock in 1809 to Amos Paine, listed as “Mrs Tryphena Kendal of Ashford”

5) Death at Woodstock 3 April 1849, age 81, birthplace given as Mansfield, Connecticut, but no column listing parents of the deceased.[3]

No probate or land records aid in identifying Tryphena as their daughter.

There actually isn’t anything that says Tryphena’s maiden name was Eaton, only that she was a widow Kendall when she remarried. In terms of probate or land records for Nathaniel and Sarah (Johnson) Eaton, nothing was great either. Nathaniel and Sarah moved to Greenwich, Massachusetts (one of the “drowned towns”), where their son Calvin Eaton (1766–1813) was living. Nathaniel and Sarah died there in 1804 and 1820 respectively.[4]

No probate or land records aid in identifying Tryphena as their daughter. After Calvin Eaton died, his widow Sally moved to Vermont and sold some of their Greenwich lands, and Amos Paine of Woodstock acted with power of attorney.[5] This would make sense, as Amos was the brother-in-law of Sally’s late husband, but of course no kinships on these documents are listed. So in terms of available vital, church, land, and probate records, nothing says Tryphena was the daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah (Johnson) Eaton, as stated in a genealogy in 1932 and implied in a genealogy of 1880. Is this statement reliable?

The clue was in the few sentences afterward in Paine Family Records.

Obviously William Eaton was an important figure in early American history. The item of note was that “his brother-in-law, Mr. Paine, published his biography.”

The Life of the late Gen. William Eaton… (1813) states in the preface: “Major Amos Paine of Woodstock, (Con.) the husband of a sister of Gen. Eaton, from regard to the family, and solely with a hope of rendering it a service, offered to risque the expense of publication.”

The biography also mentions that William’s parents lived for a time in Mansfield, Connecticut (Tryphena’s birthplace, according to her death record), and gives Nathaniel’s date of death, which matches the date found above in the Greenwich, Massachusetts church records. Obviously this 1813 biography preface is my most contemporary source that my ancestor Tryphena (Eaton) (Kendall) Paine was the sister of General William Eaton, who was the son of Nathaniel and Sarah, and thus Tryphena was their daughter as well. This biography, and even the later 1880 Paine genealogy, were closer in time to the events at hand, and can be relied upon for these specific relationships not clearly stated in civil and church records.


[1] More information on the ancestors of Sarah (Johnson) Eaton can be found here.

[2] Vital Records of Woodstock, 1686-1854, 124.

[3] Woodstock Vital Records, 4: 266-67.

[4] Greenwich Church records, 1760-1832, 143, 102.

[5] Hampshire County Deeds, 46: 21.

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.

6 thoughts on “Closer in time

  1. Excellent work. A thorough examination of multiple possibilities and very careful reading. Thanks for sharing this example.

  2. Great highlight of just because a source may be old or have information not seen in modern records, it should never be automatically discounted.

  3. I agree with the previous comments and in addition consider linking them in

  4. New Paine family info,to check out! Thanks and I’ll see if we intersect. We are on the Elisha line.

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