A Female Harlow Line Breaks Tradition
Written By: Winfield Harlow, Genealogist
Researched by: Ronaele Snyder
In Genealogy, when someone states that they are descended from an ancestor with the same surname it is assumed that they have an all male line of descent. This statement is not 100% accurate. Our Harlow cousin, Ronaele Snyder (Ronaele Snyder 12, Eleanor Loesche 11, Leander 10, Adelia Lilly 9, George 8, Sylvanus 7-6, Patience Harlow 5, Thomas 4-3, William 2, Sgt. William Harlow 1) has presented some thorough and convincing research to prove that a female Harlow line of descent does exist. Ronaele has used the research of another cousin, Patti Mentel Wittenauer as a starting point for her research. If you study Ronaele's line of descent, you will notice that Patience (5) retains her Harlow surname in this new line of descent for Ronaele. Female descendants up until the 20th century almost always took the surname of their husbands. Another reason for the female descendant to retain her maiden name would be if she married an unrelated man with the same surname. This is not the case in this situation. Let's take a look at the trail that will lead us to our Harlow female line of descent.
From the "Vital Records of Plymouth, Mass.", we know that Sylvanus Harlow Jr. and Katherine Manter both of Plimouth were married on 27 Nov 1788. We can the follow Sylvanus's life as he has 15 children, moves to Maine and dies on 1 Dec 1854 in Plymouth, Penobscot, Maine and is buried in "Old Cemetery".
We can use Sylvanus's known age at death, DAR records and Census records to establish a birth year about 1761. Now to find his parents! We can first assume that his father was named Sylvanus Harlow since he is designated as Jr. The task would be to find a Sylvanus Harlow in Plymouth, MA who has a son named Sylvanus Harlow born about 1761. BINGO! We find Sylvanus Harlow married to Desire Sampson who had two sons named after him. The first Sylvanus was born on 4 Jun 1759 and died at Plymouth, MA on 27 Dec 1759. The next son to be named Sylvanus was born on 3 Mar 1764 but he is reported to of died at age 11 in Plymouth, MA on 5 Sept 1775. At some point, it is assumed that based on the birth year of the second Sylvanus child being close to 1761, his father's name is also Sylvanus and that the death record of the second Sylvanus could have been mistaken for that of his deceased brother; the incorrect identification of Sylvanus is made. Based on these false assumptions, Sylvanus' line of descent was recorded as being; Sylvanus 6-5, John 4-3, Samuel 2, Sgt. William Harlow 1.
As we know assumptions are not always correct. That's why they are called assumptions and not facts. In making assumptions to answer our genealogical questions we increase the risk of drawing the wrong conclusions about the people involved.
As records become more widely available through the internet and published on CD ROMs we have a greater chance to uncover the truths that evaded us in the past when we had to make a physical search of each and every record which sometimes had no index. In the case of our cousin, Sylvanus, Ronaele has made good use of the internet in combination with CD ROMs from New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) to direct us to the paper records that could of escaped us for years to come or even forever.
In following clues from Ancestry.com to CD ROMs from NEHGS, Ronaele has presented the following convincing evidence to find the true identity of her ancestor, Sylvanus Harlow.
The first piece of this puzzle to be found involves Sylvanus Harlow's baptismal entries in the NEHGS CD ROM titled "Plymouth Church Records 1620-1859". In November 1764 a request was made to baptize a two-year old orphan child by Esther Jackson. After being denied her request, we find a second request on 12 Mar 1769 which at this time is approved by the church. A baptismal record is then found for Sylvanus Harlow an illegitimate orphan child living with Esther Jackson. These baptismal entries in the Plymouth church records could explain why a birth record for Sylvanus Harlow could not be found in the Plymouth vital records. These records indicate that there is an orphan child, named Sylvanus Harlow, living in Plymouth and being born about 1761-62.
Could this orphan child be the Sylvanus Harlow that marries Katherine Manter in Plymouth on 8 Nov 1788? If we look at the names of two of Sylvanus and Katherine Harlow's 15 children we find an Esther Savery Harlow and a Lemuel Jackson Harlow. Another look in the Plymouth vital records, we find a record for the marriage of Esther Savery and Lemuel Jackson on 5 Jun 1735. Hence, this could be the Esther Jackson who petitioned for the baptism of Sylvanus Harlow, raised him into adulthood, and then honored by being named, along with her husband, for two of Sylvanus' children.
We still need to find the birth parents of Sylvanus Harlow in order to connect him back to Sgt. William Harlow. We have an indication that his father's name could also be Sylvanus because he uses the designation of Jr. If we take another look at the names of his 15 children in an attempt to find a clue to his mother's name, we find that he names his first daughter, Patience. With this clue and an interest in connecting Sylvanus to Sgt. William Harlow, we turn to our book, "Harlow Family - Descendants of Sgt. William Harlow" to search for a Patience Harlow that fits into this puzzle. We find on page 152 - Patience, born 23 July 1741, died at Plymouth on 18 Sept 1763. She is the daughter of Thomas and Patience (Tilson) Harlow. Patience Harlow would have been 20 years old when she gave birth to Sylvanus. If something happened to his father before her death in 1763, that could have resulted in him becoming the two year old orphan seeking to be baptize in Plymouth by Esther Jackson.
The final pieces of the puzzle seem to fall into place when a couple of interesting entries are found in the NEHGS CD ROM titled "Plymouth Court Records 1686-1859". The first entry is a petition by Patience Harlow designated as a 'singlewoman' that she had a bastard child on 20 Nov 1761 by Silvanus Ever of Barnstable and that he is to be brought before the court. The corrected spelling of Silvanus Ever's name is Sylvanus Ewer who happens to be the younger brother of Patience's uncle, Thomas Ewer. No further entries are found in connection with this petition. The other entry in the court records is a warrant to warn persons from Plimton issued against Thomas Harlow and family and Patience Harlow and her minor son, Silvanus to depart on 23 Feb 1763.
I will close this article with a quote from one of Ronaele's emails that explained her findings to me. "I feel that Patience was aptly named, to wait this long to be recognized as mother to Sylvanus. She was only 14yrs. old when her mother died. She was 20 years old when she gave birth, and 22 years old when she died, leaving Sylvanus an orphan." I congratulate Ronaele on her fine research that uncovered a female Harlow line of descent in our family. I will document her findings in the Harlow family records and report on the cousins whose lines of descent will be altered based on this new information.
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