Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

Part III: What I Tried to Find Out

In my last post, I talked about the things I didn’t know about Mary Dunlap Dwinells (my fourth great-grandmother). The information I needed about her was where and exactly when she was born and who her parents were. I went through many different channels to try and figure out the answers to my questions.

Massachusetts has some pretty good records, and by this I mean the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records. There is some information missing from this huge database, but for the most part it is fantastic, especially because many of my ancestors lived in Massachusetts. It was a pretty easy search to see if Mary showed up in any Massachusetts birth records, she didn’t.

My next step was to check New Hampshire. It seemed pretty divided from my other information as to whether she was born in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. New Hampshire has some good birth records as well but they aren’t as easy to look through as Massachusetts. I still didn’t find any record of her.

With birth records a bust, I next turned to census records. The only records that I could find of her were after her marriage. This makes sense because before 1850 only the heads of families were listed on the census with all other family members just counted.

My last ditch effort to find something about Mary was to combine both the birth records and census data. I looked through the 1800 census in New Hampshire and found all the men with the last name Dunlap who had a female child between 0-10 years old. There were four possible fathers and through marriage records I was able to narrow those fathers to one.

Perfect! I found her parents right? Not yet, I had to make sure. The father I had found was Samuel Dunlap, of Dunlap furniture fame. I was excited but I had to make sure this was a sure thing. He had a daughter named Mary that was born in 1791. Looking through other family trees on ancestry I found this Mary a few times but some trees had her married to someone else. I couldn’t find any record to match this. I searched and searched but couldn’t find any records at all. Finally I found a book that listed the Samuel Dunlap’s genealogy and I found a record of that marriage, eliminating Samuel Dunlap as Mary Dunlap Dwinells’s father.

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the story for now. I’ve exhausted my research skills. I’ve come up with a few theories as to why I can’t find any record of Mary’s birth. Maybe those records were lost. Maybe Mary was adopted and her records are somewhere else. She also could have been lying about her name, that’s probably less possible.

Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

First published on November 30, 2015.

Part 2: What I Don’t Know

This is the second part on my series about researching Mary Dunlap Dwinells, my fourth great-grandmother. In my last post, I outlined what it know about Mary, which is really only after she got married. So lets start from the beginning.

I don’t really know where Mary was born. Her birthplace is listed as either Massachusetts or New Hampshire. I also don’t know when she was born either. On the census records and her death record her birth year (based on her age) ranges from 1793 to 1797. Speaking of her birth, I also have no idea who Mary’s parents are. They are no listed on her marriage record or her death record.

If Mary was from New Hampshire, I don’t know why she moved to Massachusetts. If she wasn’t then why did was there some discrepancy between her birthplace?

These are the main questions that I tried to answer when I began to research Mary Dunlap Dwinells. In the next part, I’ll share my researching process and the different avenues I pursued.

Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

First published on November 18, 2015.

Part 1: What I Know

I’ve been recently caught up researching Mary Dunlap Dwinells, my fourth great-grandmother. I’ve done a lot of work about her and in these next few posts, I’m going to talk about my process and the problems that I ran into. First things first, what I know about Mary Dunlap Dwinells.

Mary’s name shows up in 6 initial documents, and I found all of them through ancestry.com. The first of these is her marriage record from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Statistics:tumblr_inline_nxzk2wTlAl1qe1uf9_500

Her record is highlighted in grey. She was married to William Dwinells on December 31, 1817 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It probably was a nice New Year’s Eve wedding.

Mary shows up next in the birth records of all her children, which is also found in the Massachusetts Town and Vital Statistics:


All of her children are in highlighted in grey, and she had quite a few. Let me put them in chronological order for you.

  • Joseph James, November 11, 1818
  • Almira Ann, October 24, 1820
  • Charles Henry, August 24, 1822
  • Moses, October 11, 1824
  • Hannah Woodman, October 29, 1826
  • Daniel Bradbury, October 16, 1828
  • Leonard, September 29, 1830
  • Philip, January 15, 1833
  • William Jr., December 15, 1834
  • John Francis, May 28, 1837
  • George, July 12, 1840

That’s a lot of children! And for a span of 12 years, she was having children every two years around the same time. I’m not sure why some of her children have strange middle names like Bradbury or Woodman. It is amazing that Mary has so many children over a span of 22 years especially when childbearing was so dangerous during that time period.

Mary next shows up in census records. The ones I have found are from the 1850 United States Census, the 1865 Massachusetts State Census and the 1870 United States Census. Before 1850, the United States Census only had the names of heads of households and enumerated the number of other household members. So Mary’s name wouldn’t have shown up until the 1850 census. here are her records in chronological order:




In the 1850 US Census, Mary’s age is listed as 55 and she is also listed as being born in Massachusetts. If Mary was 55 in 1850 then her birth year would be 1795. In this census record, it appears that she is still living with her husband and some of their children. Her youngest child, George was 11. Mary is listed as 68 in the 1865 census making her birth year 1797. She is no longer living with her husband who is deceased, and is living with her son, Philip. Here she is listed has being born in New Hampshire. In the last census record in 1870, Mary’s age is 75 again making her birth year 1795. She is also again listed as being born in Massachusetts.

This discrepancy is strange and perhaps points to the possibility that these census records don’t match. However, I do think that they are the same person and perhaps point to a problem with the person relaying the information to the census taker.

The last record that I have of Mary is her death record. This again comes from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records:


Her record is kind of hard to read, but Mary L. Dunlap Dwinells passed away on January 14, 1875 at the age of 82. That would make her birth year 1793. She died from dropsey, which is an old word for edema or swelling. She died in Haverhill, but her place of birth is listed as Concord, N.H. There are no parents listed for Mary but one is listed as also from Concord.

I said that this would be a short post and honestly this is only part of Mary’s story and part of my story trying to find more information about her. In the next part, I’m going to dive deeper and try to figure out all I can about Mary’s origin story.

Origin Story: Thomas Whittier

First published on November 2, 2015.

This weekend I fell down a rabbit hole researching Ruth Lufkin Whittier, wife of Joseph Dwinells. Ruth was supposed to be my next origin story, but before I tell her story I want to tell another. I was trying to find out more information about her parents when I stumbled onto a book titled The Descendants of Thomas Whittier and Ruth Green: of Salisbury & Haverhill, Massachusetts, by Charles Collyer Whittier. In this book I found Ruth and her parents as well as information about the Whittier side of my family tree. Ruth’s three times great-grandfather (my 10th) was Thomas Whittier, the first Whittier in America.

Thomas was probably born around 1620 in Salisbury, England. He set sail for the new world in 1638 aboard the Confidence. I was able to find some amazing information about ship manifests compiled by Anne Stevens. Thomas was 18 years old and traveling with his uncle John Rolfe. Thomas was listed as a servant but this might be an indication that Uncle John paid for his passage and that Thomas was going to pay him back. Confidence landed on April 24, 1638 in Boston, Massachusetts. From there Thomas moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts where he married Ruth Green. I found a mention that by the age of 21, Thomas was 300 pounds per family tradition, but I have a feeling that this was some sort of transcription error.

Thomas and Ruth had their first child in Salisbury, Mary born in 1647, however the Whittier family soon moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts. Their second child, John (my direct ancestor) was born on December 23, 1649 in Haverhill. I found another book, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, from its First Settlement, in 1640, to the Year 1860 by George Wingate Chase that mentioned Thomas quite a few times. When Thomas arrived in town he not only brought his family, but he also brought some bees that were bequeathed to him:

Thomas Whittier, of Newbury, came into town about this time [1647] and brought a swarm of bees, which were probably the first in the place. They were willed to him by Henry Rolfe of Newbury, who calls the, “his best swarm of bees”. At that time they were no mean legacy, and their arrival was doubtless the “town talk”. (pg 67)

Thomas was very involved in Haverhill. He served on the town board and even briefly served as the town constable in 1669. His third child, Ruth was born in 1651 and his fourth, Thomas was born in 1653. A year before this, he received 7 ½ acres in a distribution of plough-land. He and Ruth had six more children Susannah in 1656, Nathaniel in 1658, Hannah in 1660, Richard in 1663, Elizabeth 1666 and Joseph in 1669.

Thomas built a house for his family in 1688 and that house still exists although, I think parts of it has been rebuilt. The Whittier homestead is listed as being built in 1829 as well. Perhaps a trip to this house will clear up some of this confusion. This house is a museum commemorating the accomplishments of John Greenleaf Whittier who was a famous poet and abolitionist. We only share Thomas as a common ancestor, his direct ancestor was Thomas’s son Joseph.

Thomas died on November 28, 1696 at the age of 76. A memorial for Thomas and Ruth exists on the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead. All of Thomas’s children lived into adulthood and contributed heavily to the town of Haverhill. As with every origin story, I’m sure that I will uncover more as I dig deeper into my history.

Origin Story: Joseph Dwinells

First published on October 19, 2015.

I thought that this post would be easy to write up, but as i looked a little closer into my family tree I found some problems. When I first started using ancestry.com I was amazed to find that there were a multitude of other trees that had my ancestors on them, so with a very quick check, I added that information to my tree. However, a lot of the information was not correct and I found that inconsistencies were carried over from others pasting to their trees. I don’t do this anymore, but there is a lot of mess in my tree which was evident as I went to look for information about Joseph Dwinells. I even found some fishy information in a book that I had. Before I start with Joseph’s story I have a disclaimer, in the rest of my posts I will only use the surname Dwinells although it may appear different in documents. This is just to keep things less confusing for everyone, especially me. Without further ado, the story of Joseph Dwinells.

Joseph Dwinells was born in 1763, to James Dwinells and Abigail Bailey Platts in East Bradford, Massachusetts. His father was a butcher, but I don’t know much of anything about Joseph’s life until his marriage to Ruth Lufkin Whittier (she will be the next origin story post). By that time, he had moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts, which is nearby East Bradford. James was married to Ruth on June 10th, 1791 at the age of 28, Ruth was 21. I don’t know what Joseph’s trade was but he and Ruth did have a lot of children, nine to be exact:

  • Moses, born December 17, 1791
  • Susannah, born March 7, 1793
  • William (my direct ancestor), born December 7, 1795
  • James, born June 8, 1799
  • Harriet, born October 11, 1801
  • Eliza, born January 8, 1804
  • Phillip Hackett, born July 7, 1806
  • Leonard Carlton, born March 6, 1810
  • Sarah Ann, born November 1, 1812

At least 3 of his children married and had families, with a large number of grandchildren. The only other information I know about Joseph Dwinells was that he died in January 1813, at the age of 50, in the army at Greenbush, New York. in 1813, Greenbush was a camp for the army during the War of 1812. (A map of the camp and it’s history can be found here) I didn’t know this but the War of 1812 didn’t only occur in 1812 but lasted until 1815. I assumed that since Joseph died at an army camp used during the War of 1812, that he was in the army for the War of 1812. However, I could not find any record of him. Seeing as he passed away a few months after his last child was born, I looked at the widow war pensions, figuring that Ruth would need assistance raising her children. I couldn’t find any record of this as well.

I have a few theories as to why I can’t find any information, perhaps Joseph wasn’t fully mustered in the army. His information as well as Ruth’s could have been lost. Another theory is that he passed away in a less than honorable way, but I still feel like there would be information somewhere. There might well be information somewhere and perhaps I can take a trip to the National Archives, or Greenbush to further research documents that aren’t online. I will definitely look into finding more information.

The information in this post came from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records and The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England.