Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mourning the Kent Children

When I do genealogical research, I sometimes get stuck on something (or distracted by life) and set it aside for a while, never knowing what I might find that will pull my back in. For the last couple of weeks I've been cleaning up my sources in Reunion, intentionally being fairly mechanical about the process so as to actually complete it, but last night stumbled across a little tidbit while verifying a citation that pulled me into a family I probably wouldn't have spent much time (if any) on otherwise.

I was double checking the source of death information for Sarah Greenleaf Kent (1688-1723) in Newbury, Massachusetts. As I was checking her death date (12 Apr 1723) in the Newbury Vital Records [1], I noticed a death listing for her son, Stephen, on 1 Apr 1723. I wondered if there was an epidemic or some event in the spring of 1723 that might account for their two deaths so close together.

Sarah Greenleaf Kent is my 7th great-aunt (according to Reunion), and fairly far removed from where I've been focusing my research, so I had not yet recorded any children for Sarah and her husband, Richard Kent. Finishing my source clean-up, I headed back to the vital records database [1]. I found that Capt. Richard Kent and Sarah Greenleaf were married in Newbury, Massachusetts, 30 Jan 1709. So I searched next for Kent children born to Richard and Sarah between their marriage in 1709 and her death in 1723.

It seems that the couple had 9 children:
  • John, b. 6 Nov 1710
  • unnamed son, b. 31 Aug 1712, d. 31 Aug 1712
  • Elisabeth, b. 8 Oct 1713
  • Richard, b. 5 Oct 1715
  • Stephen, b. 18 Sep 1717, d. 1 Apr 1723
  • Mary, b. 12 Jun 1719
  • James (twin), b. 29 May 1720
  • William (twin), b. 29 May 1720
  • Daniel, b. 10 Nov 1721
At this point, I knew that at least 2 of the 9 children had died: an unnamed son, born and died the same day, and Stephen at 5 years of age in 1723. I went back to the vital records to search for deaths in Kent family between 1710 and 1723. In addition to the 2 deaths I already knew about, what I found was the following:
  • 23 Jun 1719 - Mary died
  • 10 Jun 1720 - William died
  • 11 Jun 1720 - James died
  • 10 Jun 1723 - Elisabeth died
I expanded my search for deaths in the Kent family from 1723 to 1733 and found:
  • 10 Sep 1725 - John died
Seven of the 9 Kent children died between 1712 and 1725, six dying between 1719 and 1725. I have yet to find death information on the 2 (apparently) surviving Kent children, Richard and Daniel. In fact, going back to the vital records [1], it appears that Richard Jr. may have survived to marry Ann Hale. Several of the children of Richard Kent Jr. and Ann Hale Kent bear names of the deceased Kent children, including John and Stephen, as well as the family name Daniel. This leads me to suspect that Ann Hale Kent's husband, Richard, is the son of Sarah Greenleaf Kent.

While I don't usually use other people's family trees as a source of information, I did go to Ancestry to see if anyone else had connected Richard Kent Jr. (b.1715), son of Richard and Sarah, to Ann Hale. I searched for Sarah Greenleaf (1688-1723), and browsed 40 trees. 3 of the 40 had Richard Kent Jr. married to Ann Hale. The others either had no wife listed, didn't list Richard Jr., or listed Sarah Greenleaf as unmarried or husband unknown.

I still wonder if an event in the spring of 1723 might account for the deaths of Sarah Greenleaf Kent and her son Stephen. I know children dying young in those days was far from uncommon. But to find so many lost so close together rattled me a bit while I was searching. This might be an interesting case for me to hone some additional research skills.

[1] Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2008).

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