July 4 and my family

Ward Township in Hocking County, Ohio. (David Eggleston’s land can be seen at the lower right.) Courtesy Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library

In casting around for a July 4 post, I thought it might be interesting to see which (if any) of my ancestors were born on – or married, or died on – the fourth of July. It turns out that there were several!

The closest, a woman likely known to my mother (and certainly to my maternal grandparents), was my great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Jane Eggleston,[1] who was born in Ward Township, Hocking County, Ohio, on 4 July 1856 – just eighty years after the date on which the Declaration of Independence was approved for publication in Philadelphia. With her first husband, Jennie lived in Ohio, Virginia, and New York; later, after her second marriage, she lived in Long Beach, California, and was perhaps my earliest direct ancestor to live permanently on the West Coast.[2]

On my father’s side, my great-great-great-great-grandfather Abel Willard Atherton[3] was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts on the first anniversary of Independence Day: 4 July 1777. Willard Atherton was in Portland, Maine to marry the widowed Margaret Duncan in 1809, and he died in Castine, Maine in 1821. His daughter, my ancestor Eliza Robinson Atherton, married Samuel Henry Foster of Boston in Portland in 1830; they later lived in New York, where my great-great-grandmother married Gilbert Livingston Beeckman. (My grandfather was named for his maternal grandfather.)

By coincidence, the next ancestor with a 4 July connection is Samuel Henry Foster’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Abbot, who died at Andover, Massachusetts 4 July 1758.[4] All of the life events of Elizabeth and her husband, Asa Foster, took place in Andover: his birth and death, his marriage to Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s birth and death, and Asa’s marriage intention to Lucy (Wise) Rogers, the aunt of his daughter-in-law (and my ancestor) Lucy (Rogers) Foster.

All of the life events of Elizabeth and her husband, Asa Foster, took place in Andover…

Jennie Eggleston’s parents’ great-grandmother Lois Curtis[5] died at Otis in Berkshire County, Massachusetts 4 July 1804. (Jennie’s parents were first cousins.) Jumping back to the seventeenth century, my paternal grandmother’s ancestor Joshua Kent[6] was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts 4 July 1674. He married the wonderfully named Mary Toogood (1686-1762) in 1710; she subsequently married Joseph Barney in 1730 and Joseph Hodges in 1738. Another ancestor on my paternal grandmother’s side was John Spinney[7] of Kittery, Maine, whose estate administration was granted 4 July 1726.

Reverting to my paternal grandfather’s family, another seventeenth-century ancestor was Samson Benson,[8] for whom a birth date of 4 July 1652 is given – I wonder where I got that, since a baptismal date seems more likely. Jacob Ide,[9] one of Margaret (Weeks) (Duncan) Atherton’s forebears, was born at Rehoboth, Massachusetts 4 July 1681; his wife was my paternal grandfather’s matrilineal ancestor, Sarah Perry.[10]

Nor is this the end of it: my mother’s ancestor Martha Lovett[11] was born 4 July and baptized at Braintree, Massachusetts 4 September 1654. She married Eleazur Fairbanks in 1680, and their marriage lasted 61 years. (She died several years after her husband, on the sixty-ninth anniversary of their wedding day.) After all, everyone loves a wedding, so I will conclude with the marriage of Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith,[12] at Roxbury, Massachusetts, on 4 July 1641 – another marriage that lasted almost half a century, until Thomas’s death in 1687.


[1] Rebecca Jane Eggleston (1856-1937) was married to Oliver Doddridge Jackson 1875-1915 and to William E. Waterman in 1924.

[2] Her mother, Tryphena (Judd) Eggleston, was my only known ancestor to live in Missouri.

[3] Colonel Abel Willard Atherton (1777-1821) married Margaret (Weeks) Duncan in 1809.

[4] Elizabeth Abbot (1711-1758) married Asa Foster in 1732.

[5] Lois Curtis (1720-1804) was married to Timothy Judd 1744-85. Their son Arunah Judd (1747-1836) married Sarah Spring in 1773; the offspring of this marriage included Rebecca Judd, who married David Eggleston, and Arunah Judd, who married Laura Jeffers. The children of these last marriages, David and Tryphena, married in 1839.

[6] Joshua Kent (1674-1725).

[7] John Spinney (1691-1726) married Patience Shepard before 1714.

[8] Samson Benson (1652-1730) married Catharina Teuwis van Deursen in 1673 and Margriet Kermer, widow of Hendrik de Boogh and Jacob van Tilburg, in 1707.

[9] Jacob Ide (1681-1759) married Sarah Perry in 1708.

[10] Sarah Perry (1688-1775) was the daughter of Sarah Carpenter and the granddaughter of Sarah Redway. My grandfather’s matrilineal line passed through the Perry, Ide, Ingraham, Crabtree, Weeks, Atherton, Foster, and Beeckman families.

[11] Martha Lovett (1654-1749).

[12] Lucy Smith (d. 1689).

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

3 thoughts on “July 4 and my family

  1. Interesting. I too have ancestors from Ward Twp. My gg gf John Harper was born Cincinnati, 1833. At some point he moved to Hocking and appears as a farm hand in Ward 1850 census. He married Ann Harrison 1851 Athens Co. My ggf Lincoln Charles was born ’60 the sixth child. My gf Walter Jean was born 1891 in Ward. I have the map you have posted and the 1876 map of Ward. John’s property was at the hard bend to the south by Monday Creek. I have lots of documents from that area for people I don’t know the connection to us.

  2. I’ve always enjoyed being a July 4th baby. All those fireworks and parades, just for me! In my case, family lore has it that, not only was I born on 7-4, but that it was as 7:04 am, and that I weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces. One of the best things about my birthday is that everyone is already in party mode, so I’m always with family and friends on the day, having a good time. To me, the most curious thing about being born on July 4 is that it seems to be the most memorable birthday. I was at an event just yesterday, and there were several people there whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time – I received about a dozen “Happy Birthdays” out of the blue. I’m not sure this happens with many other birthdays in this country – maybe Halloween, Christmas, New Year?

  3. My mother never had any problem remembering the birthdays of her grandmothers. Her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Vaughn (Evans) Boggs, was born on July 4, 1884. Her maternal grandmother, Myrtle (Hastings) (Boyle) Winslow, was born on December 25, 1895.

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