A work in progress

Courtesy of Tom Hampton at FindAGrave.com

There is an old maxim that to uncover our genealogical truths we must work as hard to prove ourselves wrong as to prove ourselves right. It’s been this way for me as I’ve attempted to figure out just what to do about Harriet. As the subject of Harriet goes, I tend to stew a bit, as the possibility her ancestry will provide me with a new Mayflower line to spruce up the old family tree is all-too-enticing. She has, after all, been a bit of a recalcitrant thorn in my genealogical side. Seeing as I’ve floundered long and often against the brick walls and false claims regarding our Plymouth Rock progenitors (and even proposed a new society over such lamentations), it feels appropriate that the elusive Harriet should become my pet project for the start of the new (401st) year.[1] Like many of us here, though, who cling to the rewards of an “out-of-reach branch” or two, I just hope I’m not kidding myself. There’s little room for naive hubris when pursuing one’s family history. As my momma used to say, “It isn’t cute.”

Okay, what exactly can I tell you about “Harriet H. (Hathaway) Hampton?” Now, remember, I’m just some old guy out in California, an armchair family historian, really (please don’t tell Alicia), and I shouldn’t even be carrying the books for any true genealogist. However, I can tell you (for starters) that old Harriet’s managed to get herself omitted from that multi-generational opus, Hathaways in America, which in my humble opinion seems a rather rude gesture to her posterity.[2] Nope, in all of its several volumes and thousand or so pages, my Harriet H. (Hathaway) Hampton was at Starbucks the day the family history email questionnaire arrived and couldn’t be bothered to reply.[3] (Typical for my bunch, I suppose…)

I do know that she was my great-great-great-great-grandmother and that Chris Child helped me find the Hathaways through DNA and an unknown branch on the “Jones” side of my family tree. I know, too, that I haven’t any proof of Harriet’s middle name as “Henrietta,” only her middle initial “H.,” and the possible repetition of the name “Harriet Henrietta” for her daughter.[4] I know she left me a decent enough headstone “to track” her by, one that gives an exact age at the time of death. (I always appreciate it when the deceased bother to do this for us…) However, Harriet, in typical family fashion, has done little else to help me out.

Biographical account for Harriet’s son Ezra Stiles Ely Hampton from Portrait and biographical record of Marion, Ralls and Pike Counties…

Harriet is mentioned in other ways, though (usually in tomes concerning someone else’s ancestry), notably the Smedley family genealogy[5] and a late nineteenth-century book of Missouri county biographies.[6] Aside from these and her headstone, thus far, there isn’t much else for discerning the life of Harriet. So I’ve decided to “branch out” from what I do know about Harriet and take a look at what I might know about her, beginning with a profile for her son Ezra Hampton, found in Portrait and biographical record of Marion, Ralls, and Pike Counties… in Missouri, and a statement therein that she was “born and reared in the Quaker City.” (Yes, I know, this is where it all gets a bit tricky.)

Now all of this “written stuff” looks like an awesome place to start. I have “dates and places” for Harriet, with her exact place of birth also duplicated in the Smedley genealogy, and again on Ezra’s death certificate.[7] In the county biographical excerpt, it states that Ezra’s father, “Squire” Joseph M. Hampton, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and his mother Harriet Hathaway was born in Philadelphia – all quite specific, even down to their wedding date in Philly. This all looked great, that is until I stumbled a mention of “Joe and Harriet’s” 1823 marriage as follows:

Ooops. The problem here is that the Village Record was a Chester County and not a Philadelphia newspaper. So how can [a] “marriage in this borough” be the same thing as [the] “marriage took place in Philadelphia?” Further, if they are “both of this place,” then doesn’t it mean that they (as of 1823 at least) were both living in Chester County and she not in Philadelphia? The transcription is clearly from the earlier record, making it more vital, but does this make the 1895 county biography, the 1901 Smedley genealogy, and the death certificate information for their son Ezra all necessarily incorrect? Just where was “Harriet H. Hathaway” from?

I reasoned that for Harriet to have been “born and reared in the Quaker City,”[8] there at least had to have been some Hathaways living there in the years immediately before and after 1802 – the year of her birth, according to her headstone (at least). While not always the best template for proof, I figured I’d take a look at census records to see which Hathaway families were living in the Quaker City (and Chester County) during that general and immediate time frame. I figured ye olde censuses might give me a starting point, or a place to “weed-away a few Hathaways.” I reasoned that there must be oodles of Hathaways enumerated in Philadelphia County between 1790 and 1810. Wow. Was I surprised!?

I figured ye olde censuses might give me a starting point…

There were hardly any – and none in Chester County. Further, if the census records I reviewed can be believed (Believe me, I know, I know…), there was only one “Hathaway” in Philadelphia who might “fit the bill.” A sea captain, Caleb Hathaway, enumerated in Philadelphia in 1800, 1810, and 1820, who is the right age to be Harriet’s father.[9] I found no other Hathaways enumerated in the U.S. Census in Philadelphia County between 1790 and 1810 aside from Caleb and one William Hathaway. William appears only in the 1810 census. The “problem” with William Hathaway of Philadelphia is that (at least according to the 1810 census) he appears to have had no daughters under the age of ten (or any daughters, for that matter) – and Harriet would have been eight years old.[10] And, with finding no Hathaways in Chester County during that same time frame, the scales seem to tip in favor of Harriet eating her oatmeal in “the Quaker City.”

So, who were these Philadelphia Hathaways? About the William Hathaway mentioned above and enumerated in 1810, I could find nothing. He looks to have been a blip on the census radar for that year. While it’s possible that he came to Philadelphia “on or about” 1802, the year Harriet was born, and that she was simply omitted from census counts, there is a more intriguing possibility – that Harriet was the daughter of Captain Caleb Hathaway and a potential descendant of several Mayflower passengers. (Please don’t go crazy on me just yet…) With the liberty of my own addition of Harriet, please take a look at a ‘revised’ list of Caleb’s children:[11]

Children listed, all born in Philadelphia:

Thomas, 20 July 1795

Caleb III, 3 November 1797

Mary, 15 November 1799

Infant child, died 13 July 1801

Harriet, 25 October 1802

Peter, 29 July 1805

Interestingly, there’s a curious gap of nearly six years between the birth of children Mary and Peter. Also, sons Thomas and Peter were born in July, while siblings Caleb III and Mary were born in November. Is this a pattern from conception to births? Harriet Hathaway’s birth on 25 October 1802 not only fills in the six-year gap of bi-annual birth “intervals,” but also reflects the cadence of another autumn birth (as with the births of Caleb III and Mary) and gives credence to Captain Caleb Hathaway’s seasonal return home from the seas.

Caleb Hathaway is the only Hathaway enumerated in Philadelphia County before or after 1802 – and is the only person “viable” with the notion that Harriet Hathaway was “born and reared in the Quaker City.” There are also “potential daughters” a year or two “off” Harriet’s assumed age (Harriet, is that you?) in the census records for Caleb’s household. Further, seeing as no Hathaways are found enumerated in neighboring Chester County for the same time frame, is it safe to say that Harriet was indeed from Philly, and that the mention of “Harriet and Joe’s” marriage in the Chester County newspaper is then just an homage to the groom’s family? (Yes, I know it’s a stretch…)

So have I somehow miraculously “proven out” the parents of Harriet Hathaway Hampton? Yeah, no.

So have I somehow miraculously “proven out” the parents of Harriet Hathaway Hampton? Yeah, no. I have especially failed to do so given an 1897 biography of Captain Caleb Hathaway’s daughter Mary, a bio that mentions her three brothers but sadly no sister Harriet.[12] (I have to say too that Chris Child pointed out to me that there is no mention of my Harriet in Caleb’s will either.) This is more than a little disappointing (refer to the genealogical maxim in paragraph one); however, I’m not going to give up Harriet’s potential Mayflower ancestry just yet. I’ve got hope that the Hathaways in America may have missed something (since they missed the old gal completely anyway), and I plan on visiting some tax and land records for old Caleb, or maybe finding out that she was suddenly dis mou after she took off with that darn rake Joe Hampton, that fellow from over in Chester County.[13] (Yes, I know it’s time for me to give up the ghost…)

Most of all, I’m just happy to shine a light on Harriet. Let’s face it, she is after all (for me) a lost Hathaway and deserves her place in the sun. The way I see it is that if I don’t manage to do anything else with regard to Harriet’s very alleged Mayflower ancestry (or otherwise), perhaps some kind Nutmegger down the road (and a far better research person than I) will read this and pick up the trail. In the meantime I’m going to take some small satisfaction in that I’ve been able to augment the idea that Harriet was indeed “born and reared in the Quaker City,” and perhaps bring another one of my Mayflower research projects just a wee bit closer to home.


[1] So begins the “401st” year after the Mayflower’s landing.

[2] Elizabeth Starr Versailles, Hathaways in America (Northampton, Mass.: Hathaway Family Association, 1965; revised 1970; supplemental edition 1980). The Hathaway Family Association has kept records of the Hathaway family since 1914.

[3] As per December 2020 email correspondence with hathawayfamilyassociation.org and genealogist Carol Ann MacMaster, there is no mention of Harriet H. (Hathaway) Hampton in the works by Elizabeth Starr Versailles.

[4] Harriet Henrietta (Hampton) Dawson (1831-1910), see FindAGrave.com memorial no. 99445174. My connection to Harriet comes through my DNA connection to the Hathaway family at large and my Jones “clan.” The case for Harriet as a possible daughter of Caleb Hathaway and Mary (Wire) Hathaway of Philadelphia is based on state and U.S. and census records for Caleb’s household, and on my estimate as to her likely family. As there were no other Hathaway households in Philadelphia during that time frame that are a “fit” for Harriet, and as there were no Hathaways found in Chester County where Harriet’s husband Joseph Hampton was from, Harriet’s Philadelphia connection would then for Mayflower ancestry through her (potential) father Caleb Hathaway. Harriet’s Mayflower ancestry becomes my working theory and, indeed, my continuing “work in progress.”

[5] Gilbert Cope, Genealogy of the Smedley family… (Lancaster, Pa.: Wickersham Printing Co., 1901), 623-24.

[6] Portrait and biographical record of Marion, Ralls and Pike Counties… (Chicago: C.O. Owen and Co., 1895), 467, for biographical information on Ezra Stiles Ely Hampton.

[7] Ezra Stiles Ely Hampton (1845-1925), see Missouri Digital Heritage for a death certificate.

[8] A brief look at the definition of “rearing” a child marks the ages from birth to adulthood.

[9] L. M. Kellogg et al., eds., Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Edward Doty: His descendants through Edward and John, 24 vols. to date (Plymouth, Mass.: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975-), 11: 1: 126.

[10] U.S. Federal Census 1810, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, household of William Hathaway as viewed on Ancestry.com See The Firelands Pioneer (Norwalk, Ohio: Firelands Historical Society, 1897), 333, for the biography of Mary Hathaway (1799-1871).

[11] Versailles, Hathaways in America, 372; The Firelands Pioneer, 333, citing U.S., Quaker Meeting Records 1681-1935 on Ancestry.com.

[12] The Firelands Pioneer, 333.

[13] From Wiki-tree Quaker notes: “Members of the Society of Friends could be disowned for a variety of reasons. If you are reading Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia, you will often see the notation that someone was ‘dis mou’ or ‘dis mcd.’ ‘Mou’ meant that they had married out [of] unity to someone who was not a member of the Society. Marriage contrary to discipline sometimes meant that the couple, both Quakers, chose to be married by the Justice of the Peace or clergy from another religion thereby ‘by-passing meeting.’

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.

23 thoughts on “A work in progress

  1. There is a town called Quaker City not far over the border in Ohio. Any chance that is what is being referred to here

  2. Jeff: While true that Friends could be (and often were) “read out of meeting” for marrying outside the Society, the fact that “disowned” was the official term for this action leads to confusion about how their families treated them. The disownment was by the Society of Friends and only very rarely did that mean disownment by families or estrangement. In fact, many Friends disowned for that reason were later forgiven and readmitted to the Meeting. It is unlikely that Harriet’s absence from Mary’s life story or Caleb’s probate records would stem merely from marrying out of meeting. That said, to be thorough, you should examine Quaker records at Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and other repositories. It will be tough because there were many Meetings in Philadelphia, but Friends were diligent record-keepers.

  3. Very very interesting article. But you do realize that sometimes people will use the name of a better known surrounding area to say where they were born or married so people will geographically know what they are talking about. For years I have told people that I was born in Port Jefferson Suffolk county New York. But in birth indexes….I am born actually in Brookhaven New York. Innoway it’s the same thing, it’s how the jurisdiction is named, and how hamlets work in New York State. Also, somebody working at sea Will likely be moving around a lot. You may get all the names of the siblings of your ancestors, but you may never ever know where they were exactly born because of the travel that seamaster had to do

    1. Michael! I was hoping you might weigh in on this. I appreciate the clarification. I think too that we in the west are a bit handicapped in being able to understand all the “municipal structures” in the east. I agree that this could very well be just a case of “generalization” in terms of location – and if I know my bunch, probably to make themselves appear more important than they actually were! Many thanks my friend.

  4. When I read this it occurred to me that there may be a seemingly unlikely solution to your problem.

    The assumption that by Quaker City it was Philadelphia was intended. But what if some other place was also known by that name. And I found one, however I didn’t find historical information about its date of founding or when it became known by that name. But it may be worth checking out, just in case:

    Quaker City is an unincorporated community in Albany Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States. Quaker City is located along Quaker City Road at the base of Blue Mountain.

  5. Jeff, I’m sure you know this, but … to someone in the West or Midwest, parts of Chester Co. would be thought of as Philadelphia, just as when telling someone in, say, California, that I have lived in Boston for years, though I’d probably add “area” today. As a student at Swarthmore, almost but not quite in Chester Co., I used to hear the trains called out in the Philly stations: “Media, Wawa, WESTchester …” Chester, even then not such a great town, was within our range for movies, via a very short bus ride, and Philly’s 69th St area in the other direction by train or bus. The name Hathaway of course screams Bristol Co, MA.
    Good luck with this.

    1. Ah Jane! I am so honored to have you comment on “my” Harriet. I appreciate the clarifications you bring on the language of local geographies – which, I don’t know about everyone else – but in the thrill of the hunt I tend to forget (?) this very real aspect of research.

      ~ In re-reading your comment, “The name Hathaway of course screams Bristol Co, MA.” – I knew you understood!! 🙂 Thank-you for this!!!!

      1. But do the Hamptons “yodel” at least in Chester County? If the paper marriage record says “residents of Chester County,” were the Hamptons there for more than 2 generations? Ezra, who provided the details for his book-sketch, had the dates say from the family bible but that source may not have had the place, so “Philadelphia” comes from what he’s heard in all likelihood.

        If the Hamptons are multi-generational residents of Chester Co., but no evidence exists of Hathaways in the county, then HHH is marrying in the groom’s “home” place and not her own. Which then raises the question of just how could they have met, a 21-year-old and a 20-year old? Unless JMH was already working in the city? No evidence of that, eh?

        So, HHH came to the village to be with relatives/friends for awhile, met JMH there or came to the village specifically to get married. Which is not the norm, mostly. Whom do other Hamptons of that generation marry if listed in the Village Record? People from the county or people from away?

        And as pointed out here, too, not ALL Hathawyas come from Freetown, Bristol County, Massachusetts. It just seems like that.

        1. Robert, thank-you for this – this is an excellent line of inquiry: “Whom do other Hamptons of that generation marry if listed in the Village Record? People from the county or people from away?”
          – Jeff

  6. Jeff, very enjoyable post. It may encourage me to go after one of my brick walls this year. Family lore says that Jesse Maxim, who died in Anson/Madison Maine, was a Mayflower descendant. After several years trying to prove that, Carolyn Travers at the Society Library pointed me in the direction of Jesse’s wife, Louisa Pease, born to a Washburn with several Mayflower lines. That got me to my goal of proving my Mayflower ancestry, but maybe I shouldn’t rest on my laurels, and go after the elusive Jesse again.

    1. Steve, thank-you. It’s never to late! I say why not? There’s always new information to be gleaned. Don’t give up on Jesse yet! (He may have been hanging out with my Harriet at Starbucks…) All the best and Happy Sleuthing!

  7. I am certain you looked at the Wires in Chester County. It was common in some families for children to be raised in the household of relatives

  8. Jeff,
    Another interesting puzzle. Lots of intermarriages of my family to Hathaways of New Bedford, and Dartmouth, Massachusetts. In the early 19th century, there was steady sea traffic between New Bedford and Philly. Of course, there were many Quaker Hathaways at this time.
    I don’t know how may generations you are removed from Harriet, but it is worthwhile if she is within the last five or six generations to start mapping out the possible autosomal DNA connections to Hathaways.
    Don’t give up the ship because there is someone still on one from Massachusetts!

    1. Michael, You always bring a smile and wisdom! As my “fourth” great grandmother it seems there should be a little bit of Harriet left in the mix – but thus far nothing has been revealed. It’s funny, I know too that 19th century genealogies always tend to overly vant their subjects, and perhaps her Philly origins have been exaggerated, but I always wonder if these exaggerations are all necessarily incorrect. This may be just wishful thinking on my part…

      Your saying “..Lots of intermarriages of my family to Hathaways…” gives me great hope! And I appreciate you telling me not to “give up on the ship!” (I will take this as further proof that we are kindred spirits! 🙂

      Thanks for those Quaker records you sent for Caleb. I sure appreciate you looking out for me (and for Harriet too!)

      1. In the process you elaborate on above, you do not say you looked for a Caleb in HOA. I can not assume you did. What did you find? What are the Quaker records that Michael sent re Caleb? Do those establish his relationship with the Bristol Hathaways?

        As you HAVE turned this VB piece into a request for crowdsourcing a solution, more relevant details are warranted, Especially in presentation. I have to parse out HHH’s “birth date” from the clip provided, for instance. If she gave a daughter the name “Henrietta Harriet” (and did she?), what then are the names of her olther children and how do those names fit into the Hampton family or do not?

        Ordered details are always the better presentation.

        A blog on how Chris helped you by crossing DNA research and the Jones paper trail would be truly educational for us VB readers.

        I’ll leave a separate comment post on the marriage record implications.

        Yep, deeds, deeds, deeds, and wills, wills, wills and cluster analysis. Always trust the will. Interrogate every document.

        Also, we are ALL armchair genealogists. We ALL know what it is like working at a distance. But now I don’t have to go into the granite-cooled basement of the Bristol County Courtcase for deeds research as I did circa 1988-1992. I can go to FamilySearch. And digital sure beats revolving the microfilm reel handle.

        1. Thanks Robert! You are most kind, and your points are well taken. You remind me too that I need to be more ‘crisp’ in my presentation. (Something I’ve never been the best at!) I really like your idea for a future post about, “…how Chris helped you by crossing DNA research and the Jones paper trail.” (Nudge to Chris about here…)
          Much like this post about Harriet, I too am a “work in progress.” 🙂
          All the best!

  9. There was Philip Hathaway in Morristown during the Revolutionary War. His daughter, Mary, married Joshua Badger in the Presbyterian Church there in 1774.

  10. To all, I don’t know how appropriate it is to say so in this forum, but I need to thank-you for all the input you have given me here on “Harriet” – and elsewhere on the blog. I understand that Vita Brevis may not be exactly the right venue for the questions of “Works in progress,” but for me it’s been so great to see my fellow family historians and those true genealogists (and the blog’s amazing editor!!!) take an interest in helping to solve the riddles anyone of us here might share. “Harriet” thanks you, and surely so do I.

    It’s humbling, and truly appreciated.


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