‘A remarkable old lady’

When I joined NEHGS with my aunt in 1992, we were the first members of our family to join this organization. While several members of our family had an interest in genealogy, no one was near enough to the Boston area to join NEHGS. (Now, of course, with our vast online presence, physical proximity to our library is less essential, and a few family members across the U.S. are members.) As this year marks the 175th anniversary of NEHGS’s founding in 1845, a new database of membership applications, “1847-1900,” has gone online, and I was curious to search it to see if more distant cousins were members in the past.

The earliest cousin I found was Isaac Child (1792-1885) of Boston, a life member admitted on 9 June 1846, one year before the founding of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. His was the thirteenth membership file for 1846, and as there are 88 files for 1845 (the Society’s inaugural year), I could say Isaac Child was our 101st member, although the files appear to be in alphabetical order by year!

Isaac’s obituary appears in Register 40 [1886]: 219-20, and remarks that “All of the initiatory work of the Child Genealogy, a solid volume of 842 pages, was performed by him. His kinsman, Elias Child, who completed and published the work, says in his preface: Correspondence was opened with Mr. Child, of Boston, who had hitherto been unknown to me, which led to an arrangement with him for placing in my hands, the material which he had, to be incorporated in the proposed genealogy. His matter forms the nucleus of this work; not that it constitutes the larger amount, or that it was arranged as incorporated in this work. The filling up of many branches partially traced by Mr. Isaac Child, and the discovery of many new lines, will swell the volume to threefold or more beyond his material. Yet had it not been for his industry and perseverance, it is probable the present work would not have been undertaken.”

I am fortunate to have two copies of this 1881 genealogy (from a printing of 500), including my great-great-grandfather’s copy, which he had rebound in 1918 with his initials: “H.T. Child” [Henry Thurston Child]. Page 810 has only five additional births in the appendix, including the birth of my great-grandfather in September 1880, so clearly Henry was intent on having a complete family record! The other copy a friend managed to find at a bookshop about ten years ago.

Click on the image to expand it.

Of course I have corrected errors from time to time in this genealogy. I descend from Isaac’s great-great-grandparents, Joshua and Elizabeth (Morris) Child, making Isaac my third cousin, seven times removed, and through my eight other descents from Joshua’s parents, Benjamin and Grace (Morris) Child, Isaac is also my fourth cousin, seven times removed, eight times over, among many other kinships!

I noticed that at least six other close relatives of Isaac Child were early members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (see chart).[1] However, the most interesting kinsperson I found was Isaac’s sister-in-law Mrs. Elizabeth Richards Child (1781-1878). While Judith Lucey’s recent post noted that women were denied membership until 1894, I saw from the first issues of the Register that women were not prohibited from subscribing to the Register and donating to the Society. Elizabeth is credited in 1848 as donating “large quantities of books and tracts at different times,” and is listed a subscriber to the Register as early as 1854 (and probably earlier).[2]

While Elizabeth died before she could ever be elected a member in her own right, the Register published a substantial obituary, and the 1881 Child genealogy quoted her obituary in its entirety from the Boston Daily Journal:

Clearly Elizabeth would have joined NEHGS had she been allowed, like her son-in-law, grandson, great-grandson, two brothers-in-law, and two nephews-in-law. Genealogy was certainly a passion in this family!


[1] The two generations of Isaac Childs marrying women named Elizabeth Weld are indeed accurate, unlike the example I had discussed in “Seeing Double.”

[2] “Donations to the Society,” Register 2 [1848]: 230-31, “Payments for the Register, &c.,” Register 8 [1854]: 200.

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.

17 thoughts on “‘A remarkable old lady’

  1. You are one of the lucky ones with Genealogy about your surname Ancestry. The fact that you were descended from the family a few times makes it a very indispensable Genealogy even with a few errors.

  2. What a treasure you have, a well-written and very descriptive obituary. I descend from Dr. Henry Halsey Childs (1783-1868). He is my 4x great-grandfather and was a prominent physician in Pittsfield, Mass as well as Lt. Governor of Mass at some point. I have a book that lists the names on the cover as Child, Childs and Childe. I would imagine you and I are related somehow!

    1. Hi Mary. Henry Hasley Childs was part of the “Barnstable branch,” going back to Richard Child (ca. 1624-1691) of Barnstable, Massachusetts, possibly a first cousin of my ancestor Benjamin Child of Roxbury!

  3. Given that Mrs. Childs made at least one donation of materials to the Society, any chance that the old card catalog (of which I have fond memories, the handwriting being impeccable) would have noted her as the donor, and so could still be on the shelves (or perhaps in archives)? That is, if the old card catalog still exists?

  4. I have a Child Connection, Which is Choloe Child, Marring Luther Cady in Woodstock 3 Oct 1764. I was wondering which spelling of the last name of child do you use, the Massachesetts Town & Vital Records uses three, Child,Childe,Childs. the children are in all three listings.

      1. Christopher, It is great to hear from you during this time. I have connections to the Morris Family that you have mentioned and thus the Child Family. The earliest link I have is Thomas Morris -born in 1608 in Waltham Abbey, Essex, England. Also the Mayo Family and the Child family are in the mix. The Morris links are via my Mother Hila Hilton-born in 1899 in Wallace, Nova Scotia. Her Dad Arthur Edward Morris and Harriet Eliza Forshner were part of the mix too. Thanks for all the listings you have included in your posting. I have approx. 21 links to passengers and Crew of the Mayflower as well. All the best at this ROUGH time in our lives. We have had no Deaths so far in New Brunswick, Canada. The Virus is all around us in Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec as well as the US. Stay well all. Sincere Best Wishes,
        Paul Morris Hilton, Harvey Station, New Brunswick, Canada

  5. I loved this post. I, too, am a CHILD descendant and thus a distant cousin of yours! Ruth Child Fay b 1714, wife of Stephen Fay of Bennington, VT (son of John CHILD and Hannah FRENCH) was my 6th ggrandmother. Stephen’s brother, James FAY, was married to a Lydia Child b 1706. (parents I believe were JOSEPH CHILD b 1658 and Ruth CHURCH.)Do all CHILD (S) lines go back to old EPHRAIM CHILD?

    1. Thanks Karen! Your Joseph Child was the son of earlier Joseph Child of Watertown, who was a nephew of Ephraim Child of Watertown. Ephraim came with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 and made a return trip in the 1640s in which case he brought back four nephews (and a few other relatives) – your Joseph and his two brothers John and Richard, and my ancestor Benjamin Child who settled in Roxbury. This is a case where the 1881 Child genealogy does state erroneously that the three Watertown brothers were the sons of an earlier William Child of Watertown, who did not exist. The fathers of Benjamin and his three Watertown cousins both died in England. These were cleared up in a series of articles in The American Genealogist in the late 1980s, one by Robert Charles Anderson on the non-existent William Child, and the other by Myrtle Stevens Hyde and Paul L. Child, on the kinship network of Ephraim Child of London and Watertown (links below through our website). Best, Chris

      (article by Douglas Richardson on Ephraim Child’s marriage, followed by article on the non-existent William Child by Robert Charles Anderson)

      (article by Hyde and Child on the English kinship network)

      1. Thanks for clearing this mystery up for me. I will check out the links. I am proud to be a Child cousin. Any ideas abt the Child/ Childs with an S difference?

        1. Surname variations tended to occur then, usually not for any rhyme or reason, sometimes it’s only the way the surname is written by the recorders. I’ve seen the s get added to lots of lines, sometimes taken away later.

          1. Chris and Karen – great posts!
            Karen, my wife’s fifth great-grandparents are also Capt. Stephen Fay and Ruth Child! She descends through Stephen’s son Bennington blacksmith Benjamin Fay, his daughter Sarah Fay Calhoun, and on to Harrisons from Cornwall Bridge, Conn. This in on my wife’ mother’s side.
            Chris, thanks for posting the links, they are helpful. My wife also has a descent from Joshua Child and Elizabeth Morris, through dau. Prudence Child who m. Jonathan Farrington, their dau. Prudence Farrington who m. Ebenezer Fairbanks (parents of the notorious Jason Fairbanks who murdered his girlfriend, escaped and was caught and hung; one of his helpers for the escape was Nathaniel Davis, his nephew and son of Prudence Fairbanks, Jason’s sister). That Davis line marries into the John Hill Prentice family of Brooklyn, NY. This is on my wife’s father’s side.
            So that’s two of the several Child lines (one each from Roxbury and Watertown), but nowhere close to your many lines, Chris!

  6. Volunteer Coordinator Helen Herzer provided me some additional sources on early members – https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t85h7p11k&view=1up&seq=5 (and other Society archives) – which would show that counting corresponding and honorary members, Isaac Child became the 142nd member in 1846, and that in 1860, he became the Society’s eighth life member! (first created in 1855 at fifty dollars, then reduced to thirty dollars!)

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