Myths, Mistakes, and Mysteries in Thurber Genealogy

 Genealogical research can be frustrating when dealing with conflicting information. It is a given that a researcher will find discrepancies and will need to determine what is fact and what items need further research. In my research into Thurber Genealogy, I have discovered a number of myths and errors that left uncorrected will continue to be propagated as fact. In addition, there are a number of Thurber mysteries that have confounded serious researchers for decades. A few of these mysteries have been solved in recent years, but most remain unsolved.  Musings presents a mix of myths, mistakes, and mysteries in Thurber genealogy to help in determining what is fact, what is fiction, and what needs further research.

The Thurber Surname

The most obvious mystery when researching Thurber history is the origin of the surname THURBER. Although a number of theories have been advanced, they are merely theories. Common references to the name Thurber being of Norse origin are not supported by the DNA results showing the Thurbers to be haplogroup R1b1b2, a group that is thought to have arrived in central and western Europe around 2300 BCE, by going up the Danube from the Black Sea coast.

1. From the writings of Charles H. Thurber Sr, [Book A Part 1, page 6]:

The family name Thurber or Thorber is a shortened form of Thorebern or Thorbern, the latter occurring in the Doomsday book A.D. 1086, and both in Hundred Rolls, A.D. 1273. It is traced back to Old Norse Thorbjorn, Thor-bear, and modern Thorburn.

Another interpretation of the name. - Thorber is the spelling given in Heraldry and a very ancient origin. Probably the same as Thorsby of Hay Co., Brecon. Formerly of Leeds Co., York and derived from Jos.Patrick, Lord of Thoresby.

The arms could indicate German extraction as shown. Metal on Metal a rule only followed by Germans.

2. Charles H. Thurber Sr. - quoting from Dictionary of Ancestral Heads of New England families - 1620 to 1670 Pg XXXVII Thurber

The name is a contraction of Thoreborn of Icelandic origin and was established in England by Norseman, William Thoreborn who resided in Oxfordshire in the 13th century and were armour makers.

 3. Three Hundred Fifty Years of Thurbers by Thurston T. Thurber 

There is general agreement that “Thurber is of Scandinavian i.e. Norse or Viking derivation. The “THUR” is from the god Thor - he of the chariot whose wheels produce the thunder one hears when the summer lightening streaks the heavens.  The “BER” part of the name engenders a couple of hypotheses: the favored one is that it comes from “bjorn” od Danish for “bear,” thus we have Thorbjorn, or Thor’s bear. A second rendering of the “BER” root is from “BERG” - thus Thor’s berg or Thor’s mountain. In the sagas, Thor was continually bashing giants with his magic hammer amongst ubiquitous icy mountains.                   

4. A newer theory of the Thurber surname I feel is worth serious consideration:

Peirce's colonial lists. Civil, military and professional lists of Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies, comprising colonial, county and town officers, clergymen, physicians and lawyers. With extracts from colonial laws defining their duties, 1621-1700. by Ebenezer Weaver Peirce contains three entries for John Thurburrow.. Page 30 lists him as Constable in Swansea in 1677, page 33 lists him as Surveyor of Highways in Dartmouth in 1674, and page 35 lists him as Surveyor of Highways in Swansea in 1675.  There were no known persons with that surname in any other documents of the time, and it has long been believed that this was actually John Thurber. The usual explanation has been that it was a case of the poor spelling at that time. It seems odd that a name would be misspelled in the same way on three separate lists in different years, and in two different towns.  I have a different take on this.

There is one county in England in which the name Thirdborough (and variant spellings) is seen.

Pallot's Marriage Index for England: 1780 - 1837 has Thirdboroughs in Blaby, Leire, Barrow on Soar, and Gilmorton - all located in Leicestershire. In checking the Thirdborough entries in England & Wales, Free BMD 1837-1983, all the births, all the marriages and all but one of the deaths listed for that name are in Leicestershire. My search of IGI extracted records found most of the variants of this name also in Leicestershire. A search using Tharborough turned up Thurburow, Thurborough, Thurberrough, Thurdborough, Thurborrow, Thurborowe, and so forth. A couple of these names dated back to the 1620s and 1630s.

The word “thirdborough” means deputy constable or tithingman. A tithingman/tythingman was the chief man of a tithing; a headborough. He presided over the tithing (a group of about ten households). Villages often had several tithings. The tithingman served for a year at a time and was expected to be able physically to keep things in order.

A recent research effort into the names Thurber and Thurburrow yielded an interesting comment from an English archivist hired to do a search for Thurber/Thurburrow variants in Lincolnshire. He reported, in considering the name Stanton or Stainton (a place of origin often mentioned for John and Priscilla): "The difficulty is that there is nowhere in Lincolnshire with the name Stanton. There is, however, a village of that name in Leicestershire, which is an adjacent county to Lincolnshire." He also mentioned that the name Thurburrow/ Thurbourough appears in Leicestershire records and noted: "English pronunciation of this name [Thurburrow] puts less stress on the latter syllables than you might in America.  The English pronunciation is something like ‘Thurbruh,’ which is quite a small step from Thurber."

Instead of assuming that the spellings in Peirce’s list were errors, consider the possibility they were instances of a family member falling back into old habits, and using the name as it was before being shortened to Thurber/Thurbur. If that was the case, the key to Thurber history may lie in records of the Thirdboroughs of Leicestershire, England .

John Wheaton’s wife - the Carpenter vs. Thurber Myth

There has long been disagreement over the surname of Elizabeth, wife of John Wheaton (1650-1737) of Rehoboth and Swansea, MA. A quick search in December 2008 of Rootsweb WorldConnect files showed 96 files with Elizabeth Carpenter as the wife of John Wheaton. There were 75 with Elizabeth Thurber as his wife.  In 29 of the files, John Wheaton has both names listed as wives, some with Thurber as 1st marriage and some with it as 2nd marriage. There seems to be nothing to indicate that John Wheaton married more than one time.

In 2002 I discovered and posted information that shows that John Wheaton married Elizabeth Thurber. The source was a legal document included with the probate package of John Thurber, father of Elizabeth Thurber.  It included the statement “ KNOW All Men by these Presents, That We Priscilla Thurber widow & relict of John Thurber, late of Swanzey deceased, and John Thurber son & John Wheaton son in law all of Swanzey in the county of Bristoll - - -" 

The David Thurber (and sometimes Mercy Stafford) Myth

Many files reference a David Thurber as son of the “first” Thurbers, John and Priscilla. There is absolutely no record of John and Priscilla having a son named David. In late 2008 there were still 49 files on Rootsweb WorldConnect showing David, with 17 showing he married Mercy Stafford. Another 5 have the marriage of David Thurber to Mercy Stafford, but don’t include parents for David. Some other files list Davids wife’s surname as Stofford

An erroneous listing of the death of the wife of a David Thurber that could account for this is in Rehoboth MA deaths page 880. It lists the death of THURBER, Mercy, wife of David June 3 1725. I suspected this might be wrong, since no birth, marriage, children, or death records for David have been found. In March 2000,  I contacted the town clerk of Rehoboth MA and confirmed that the original record has the name THURSTAN, not THURBER. I ordered and received a certified copy of the original death record

Although I do not know whose death record this is, it could be the death of Mercy (Carey) Thurston who m. David Thurston in 1713, and had several children by him from 1714 to 1723.

In 2000 I notified each owner of a WorldConnect database containing David Thurber that the entry was incorrect, and was likely based on the incorrect name that had been published years ago in the Vital Records of Rehoboth. Only a very few corrected their files, and now nearly nine years later the myth/error has migrated to many more files. Unfortunately, these errors are almost impossible to eradicate once they take hold.

The Richard Thurber and Mercy Stafford (daughter of Samuel) Myth

Richard Thurber b. 1681 married a Mercy (unknown surname).There are claims by some that Richard’s wife, Mercy (or sometimes Marcy)  was Mercy Stafford b. 1668 to Samuel Stafford and Mercy Westcott. That does not fit the information as we know it about Richard's wife.

However, Mercy could have been the granddaughter of Samuel Stafford and Mercy Westcott. The following is the best information I have been able to put together concerning Mercy, wife of Richard Thurber.

1. Richard Thurber and wife Mercy had a son Edward Thurber b. 31 Jan 1710 in Swansea MA
2. Mercy/Marcy Thurber (widow of Richard) married John Martin 4 April 1713.
3. John and Mercy/Marcy Martin had children, including a son born 1724.
3. Mercy/Marcy Martin, relect of John Martin died 29 September 1760 in her 72nd year according to her stone in North Swansea MA Cemetery.  The visible portion of her headstone (as viewed Feb. 2003) reads: 

In Memory of Mrs Marcy Martin Relict of Mr John Martin
who Departed this Life  ...ptember 29th 1760 in the Seventy Second

The remainder is below ground level.  Her footstone reads:

Mrs Marcy Martin

The above establishes Mercy's birth as about 1688. Her age has  also been confirmed by a Bible record.

Samuel Stafford's will written in 1711 refers to a granddaughter named Marcy/Mary Thurber.  Since Richard Thurber's wife was named Mercy, it is likely that Richard was married to a granddaughter of Samuel Stafford. Since we don't know which child of Samuel had a daughter Mercy b. about 1688, it is not known what Mercy's surname was.  It is possible that Mercy Stafford b. 1668 had a daughter named Mary/Marcy, and that this daughter was the person who married Richard Thurber. Since there appears to be no record of such a marriage or birth, no surname can be assigned to Mercy, wife of Richard.

For those who suggest that Richard Thurber's wife was Mercy Stafford b. 1668, consider her age and her father's will. This scenario would mean that the will of Samuel Stafford had one of 2 errors: (1) Samuel  neglected to mention his daughter Mercy Thurber in his will and referred to a granddaughter Mary b. to Richard and Mercy Thurber; or  (2) he called Mercy his granddaughter instead of his daughter. The problem with the first possibility is that there was no daughter Mary b. to Richard and Mercy.  The problem with the second possibility is that Samuel did not die until 1718 - years after Richard had died and his wife remarried. Why didn't Samuel change his will to reflect the daughter's new name - Mercy Martin.  And if Mercy Stafford b. 1668 m. Richard Thurber and then later married John Martin and had a child in 1724, it means that a child was born to Mercy and John Martin when Mercy was 66. 

Did Samuel's daughter Mercy marry and have a daughter named Mercy? Or possibly did his son Amos have a marriage before the marriage to Mary Burlingame, and have a daughter by that marriage? We just don’t know.

The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island, Comprising three generations of Settlers Who Came before 1690 by John Osborne Austin, published 1887, p. 385-389  is a  source that has been quoted for a marriage of Richard Thurber b. 1681 to Mercy Stafford b. 8 Jul 1668 in Warwick, Kent Co., RI.

It just shows Mercy Stafford b. 1668, Jul. 8 m __________Thurber. Had one child, Mary.

Since Richard's widow married John Martin, and died in 1760 at age 72, I don't see how the entry in Austin can be for Richard Thurber, and  there is no other Thurber male that I know of who could have been married to Mercy Stafford  b. 1668. Thurbers at that time were limited to children and grandchildren of John and Priscilla Thurber. There were no other Thurbers in the 1600's. The name began with John and Priscilla Thurber and their children

Austin didn’t supply a source for his entry. He stated in the Preface of the book that, "The material gathered in these pages was drawn from many sources." It is entirely possible that he made an assumption based solely on the will of Samuel Stafford, but there is no way to be certain.

I am going to toss this “musing” out for consideration.

1. Mercy Stafford b. 1668 (dau. of Samuel)
2. Mercy has dau. Mary/Mercy 1688 (father unknown) - and perhaps she never married.
3. Mercy (b. 1668) dies before date of Samuel's will
4. Mary/Mercy b. 1688 marries Richard Thurber bef. 1710 and before date of will

This would account for no daughter Mercy in the will, but a granddaughter Mary. Mary may have decided to use the name Mercy after the death of her mother. Before that, she may have used Mary to keep from causing confusion with the name Mercy. Alternatively, some other granddaughter of Samuel m. Richard Thurber.

The Thurber/Stafford mystery was also addressed by Joanne E. Martin in 1999.  In an email I received from her she wrote: 

I have a copy of the will of Samuel Stafford. In it he names all his living children. He does not name a daughter Mercy or a son Stukley. From this I assume those two to have been dead by 1710, the date of the will. He does name all his other children and the daughters by their married name.

Note that he names two granddaughters:  Mercy Thourbur and Mary Stafford. At the probate in 1718 comes forward his granddaughter, Mercy Smith. There is no clue as to which of Samuel's children, Mercy Thourbur comes. One conclusion would be that she was a child of Mercy, who married an early Thurber. However, there is no clue as to the name of this early Thurber. This Mercy was born 1668 and was dead by 1709/1710 so couldn't have married John Martin.

So was the Mercy Smith who came forward at the probate the same as Mercy Thourbur? Surely, this was the Mercy Thourber mentioned in the will. She would have been the only granddaughter, Mercy, who was named and would stand to get money. I'm wondering if there are administration papers, etc. in conjunction with this will. So I'll have to get the Index of probate for Warwick to see if anything further. If this Mercy Thourbur did marry a Smith, then what basis is there for a Mercy (Thoubur) Thurber marrying John Martin? Could be that whole scenario is wrong? 

The Abner Thurber Mystery

A number of Thurber descendants have traced their family history to an Abner Thurber and wife Jane who were in listed in the Itawamba County Mississippi 1850 census. Details on Abner, including dates and place of birth, marriage, and death, remain a mystery. 

The 1850 United States Federal Census of District 7, Itawamba, Mississippi has a household with the following members:
Abner E Thurbor 43 b. N. Y.
Jane Thurbor 31 b. Tenn.
Henry Thurbor 12 b. Ala.
Emily Thurbor 10 b. Mi.
Emeline Thurbor 7 b. Mi
James Thurbor 4   b. Mi.
William Thurbor 2 b. Mi.
Abner Thurbor 9/12 b. Mi.
Rhoda Underwood 15 b. Ga.
Andrew Conly 45 b. Tenn.                  

I have found only two more references to Abner: an Itawamba deed in 1852; and a directory of Denison, Texas for 1876/7 listing Jane as his widow.

Abner is in the following 1852 deed posted on the Itawamba MI board at Rootsweb by Dot Tribble.                 

This Indenture made and entered into between Joseph WOODRUFF Sherriff of Itawamba County & State of Mississippi of the one part and E. J. Chasteen Witnesseth that the said Joseph Wood as such sherriff having levied on North East quarter of Section thirty five south west quarter of Section thirty four all of Township Eight (No 8) of Range ten (No 10) East Of the basis meridian as as the property of Abner THURBER [Thurben? Wurber?] by virtue of .. and to satisfy the amount thereof namely one Hundred & fifty dollars & sixty cents debt & thirty four dollars cost a writ of vendi Exposes of the County of Itawamba on the lands &c of Abner THURBER and he having [advertised?] the day and place of sale did on the third Monday of June at the Court house door of said county of Itawamba according to law Expose to sale at Public Auction for cash and then and there E. J. Chasteen became the last and best bidder and purchaser thereof as and for the sum of thirty one dollars 50/100 which he thereupon paid to Joseph WOODRUFF Sherriff as foresaid in consideration of the promises [premises?] does hereby bargain sell grant alien infeoff and convey to the said E. J. Chasteen the aforesaid property unto the said E. J. Chasteen and his heirs and the said Joseph WOODRUFF Sherriff as aforesaid does warrant and will defend same to E. J. Chasteen and his heirs &c free and quit of the right title and interest of the said Abner THURBER botH in Law and Equity and of all & every one claiming or to claim under or through him so far as he the said Joseph WOODRUFF Sherriff by virtue of the process proceedings [act?] and purchaser aforesaid and the law in such cases can or may warrant and defend but only officially and in no other manner or degree whatsoever In witness whereof the said Joseph WOODRUFF as Sherriff as aforesaid hereto sets his name and seal on the day and year first written.   . . . . . . Given under my hand and the seal of the said Court at office in Fulton this 5th day of April AD 1852

 The pertinent  Denison TX directory entries are:


Basket, James M., teamster, res s s Crawford bet Austin and Rusk Aves.
Thurber, Jane N., (wid Abner E.), home James M. Basket.
Thurber, William, lab, res s s Crawford bet Austin and Rusk.
lab        laborer
s s        south side
res            residence

James M Basket is likely the same James M Basket who m. Abner’s daughter Emeline Thurber (also known as Sarah E.).

What happened to the children of Abner and Jane?
I have researched the children of Abner and Jane hoping to find some clue to who Abner’s parents were and to see where he and/or Jane were in the years following 1850. According to a typewritten transcription of the James Madison Thurber Family Bible, the children’s names were: Henry Eddy, Emily E, Sarah Emiline, James Madison, William Lewis, and Abner Echols.

Daughter Emily married Andrew Jackson Hanna.  In 1860 she was in Bates, Sebastian, AR. In 1870 and 1880 she was in Sulphur, Sebastian, AR. I was unable to find any of the other family members in 1860. 

Daughter Emeline (AKA Sarah E.) married James Basket.  In 1870 she lived in Sulphur, Sebastian, AR. In 1880 she is married to George Robbins and lives in Precinct 7, Tarrant, TX. 

Son James Thurber is living in Upper, Sebastian, AR in 1870. 

Son William Thurber is living in Sulpher, Sebastian, AR in 1870. 

There is an odd entry in the 1870 census for a J Thuper 48 and Henry Thuper 20 in Precinct 1, Robertson, TX - could this be Jane and son Henry? Ages are almost impossible to read, and J is listed as male. 

On 11 Oct 1876 a Henry Thurbur m Amanda M. Griffin in Medina Texas.  There was a Griffin family 2 pages from the Thupers in the 1870 census. I don’t know if this has any significance. 

Son Abner m. Sallie Whitley 1 Nov 1876 in Atascosa, Bexar, TX. 

None of these items has provided a clue to Abner’s birth, marriage or death. Later census records of the children of Jane and Abner vary in listing the states where the parents were born. 

In 1880 Emeline is married to George Robbins, and lists her father’s birthplace as Mich. In 1900 she again gives father's birthplace as Michigan. In 1910 Emeline doesn’t specify her father’s birthplace. 

James M. Thurber in 1880 did not specify a birthplace for his father.  In 1900 he lists father b. Alabama and mother born Vermont. In 1920 he reverses the states and has father b, Vermont and mother b. Alabama. 

Daughter Emily married Andrew Jackson Hanna.  In the 1880 census she gives father b. NY and mother b. Ala.  In 1900 she lists Ala as birthplace for both parents. In 1910 she has father b. Ill. and mother b. Miss. 

Source records:
Texas marriage records and images from the following census listings from were the basis of the above research on the children of Abner. They also illustrate the problem in determining Abner’s birth location based on census records: 

Daughter Emeline:
1870 United States Federal Census about Emeline Baskit
Name: Emeline Baskit  Age in 1870: 27 
Birthplace: Mississippi  Home in 1870: Sulphur, Sebastian, Arkansas
Household Members: James Baskit 29,  Emeline Baskit 27,  Henry Baskit 2,   Magnolia Baskit 5/12 

1880 United States Federal Census about E. Robins
Name: E. Robins    Home in 1880: Precinct 7, Tarrant, Texas
Age: 33  Birthplace: Miss  Relation to head-of-household: Wife  Spouse's name: George
Father's birthplace: Mich  Mother's birthplace: Ala
Household Members:  George Robins 31, E. Robins 33, Henry T. Robins 12, Magie Robins 10, Wm B. Robins 8, N.E. Robins 1 

1900 United States Federal Census about Sarah E Robbins
Name: Sarah E Robbins  Home in 1900: Justice Precinct 5, Frio, Texas
Age: 55  Birth Date: Jul 1844  Birthplace: Mississippi
Relationship to head-of-house: Wife
Father's Birthplace: Michigan  Mother's Birthplace: Alabama 
Mother: number of living children: 5  Mother: How many children: 8 
Spouse's name: George A  Marriage Year: 1878  Marital Status: Married  Years Married: 22 
Residence : Justice Precinct 3-5, Frio, Texas
Household Members: George A Robbins 51, Sarah E Robbins 55, Nancy E Robbins 21, John W Robbins 18

1910 United States Federal Census about Emline Robbin
Name: Emline Robbin Age in 1910: 60 Birthplace: Mississippi
Relation to Head-of-house: Wife  Mother's Birth Place: Mississippi 
Spouse's name: George A    Home in 1910: Justice Precinct 7, Llano, Texas
Household Members: George A Robbin 45  Emline Robbin 60  Willis Campbell 8

Son James Madison:
1880 United States Federal Census about James M. Thurber
Name: James M. Thurber
Home in 1880: Vineyard, Washington, Arkansas
Age: 34   Birthplace: Mississippi
Spouse's name: Lucy A.
Household Members: Name Age
James M. Thurber 34  Lucy A. Thurber 30  George Thurber 9 
Maggie Thurber 5  Lilly Thurber 2  

Name: James M Thurber
Home in 1900: Township 15, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory
Age: 54  Birthplace: Mississippi 

Daughter Emily:

Name: Emily Hanner
Age in 1860: 20  Birthplace: Mississippi  Home in 1860: Bates, Sebastian, Arkansas
Jackson Hanner 26   Emily Hanner 20   Jane Hanner 1  

Name: Emilie Hanna 
Age in 1870: 30  Birthplace: Mississippi  Home in 1870: Sulphur, Sebastian, Arkansas
Jackson Hanna 35  Emilie Hanna 30  Mary Hanna 8  Martha Hanna 4  Andrew Hanna 5/12 
Mary Hanna 74 

Name: Emily Hanna
Home in 1880: Sulphur, Sebastian, Arkansas   Age: 40  Birthplace: Mississippi. 

Name: Emly E Hanna
Home in 1900: Township 8, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory
Age: 60   Birthplace: Mississippi 

Name: Emily E Hanna
Age in 1910: 69 Birthplace: Mississippi Relation to Head-of-house: Mother 
Father's Birth Place: Illinois  Mother's Birth Place: Mississippi 
Home in 1910: Cameron, Le Flore, Oklahoma 

Son William:
Name: William Thurber
Age in 1870: 22  Birthplace: Mississippi  Home in 1870: Sulphur, Sebastian, Arkansas 

Son Henry with Jane?
Name: J Thuper Estimated Birth Year: abt 1822 Age in 1870: 48  Birthplace: Arkansas 
Home in 1870: Precinct 1, Robertson, Texas
Race: White     Gender: Male 
Post Office: Calvert 
Henry Cly 22  Sarah Cly 18  Eliza Cly 10  Jim Cly 4  J Thuper 48  Henry Thuper 20  

Texas Marriages [Source: Texas Marriages, 1851-1900] : 

Name: Abner Thurber Gender: Male  Marriage Date: 1 Nov 1876
Spouse: Sallie Whitley
Marriage city: Atascosa  Marriage State: Texas                                                                                  

Name: Henry Thurbur  Gender: Male  Marriage Date: 11 Oct 1876
Spouse: Amanda M. Griffin  Marriage city: Medina  Marriage State: Texas  

Musings: Check the Musings section on Eddy Thurber for additional thoughts on Abner. 

Eddy Thurber of Champlain NY Mystery

Eddy Thurber is an elusive early resident of Clinton County. He was a brother to the more well-known Gen. Ezra Thurber. Ezra Thurber was vice-president of the Clinton County Agricultural Society organized in 1819. He owned the first piano in Rouses point. In 1811, he was one of the first stockholders of the original Plattsburgh Republican newspaper. Ezra built the first wharf in Rouses Point in 1816. In 1817 President Monroe and his party breakfasted with the Ezra Thurber family (still living in his frame house) and then made an inspection tour of the border defenses before returning to Plattsburgh. Although Ezra's brick mansion was begun in 1816 (and is still standing), it was not completed until 1818. 

According to historical reports of Clinton County, Edward and wife Abigail (Eddy)Thurber moved to Champlain with their family in 1797 and purchased lot 57 on the lake shore.  Edward cleared land and built his house there. His children Eddy, Edward Jr., Cromwell, Ezra. John, Abner, Cromwell and Betsey all settled in the town. 

In spite of the fact that Ezra was prominent in Clinton County, the information on his brother Eddy is sparse. My unconfirmed information is that he was b. 9 Jul 1776, d. 31 Oct 1829, and his wife may have been Clara Rouse. 

An Eddy Thurber household appears in the census for Champlain in 1800 as just an adult male and female - no children.
In 1810 the household listed 2 male children and 1 female child all under 10 (and the adult male and female)
By 1820, the Eddy Thurber household listed 2 males under 10, 3 males 10-15, 1 female 10-15 (and the adult male and female) 

No records have been located to identify any of the children in his household. It isn’t known if they were his children or another person’s children living with him. If Eddy really did have male children who lived to marry and have children, this opens up a whole new line of Thurber research. 

Musings: Is it possible that one of Eddy’s children was Abner Thurber who is the subject of The Abner Thurber Mystery presented earlier? To review, according to a typewritten transcription of the James Madison Thurber Family Bible, Abner’s children’s names were: Henry Eddy, Emily E, Sarah Emiline, James Madison, William Lewis, and Abner Echols. The only census record found for Abner is from 1850.  His age is listed as 43 and birthplace is N.Y.. 

Eddy had a brother named Abner. Did Eddy name a son Abner for brother Abner? 

Eddy's brother, Ezra, had a son Henry Albert Thurber who drowned 5/7/1817 at age 3. He wandered off and fell from a wharf at his parents' home in Champlain. If Abner was a son of Eddy, surely the death of his young cousin would have made a strong impression on a 10-year-old Abner - maybe enough that he would name his first born son Henry. And if the Bible transcription is correct and Henry’s middle name was Eddy, this could be for his grandfather Eddy. 

Eddy’s brother Ezra had a daughter Emily b. ca. 1810 and Abner in Mississippi named a daughter Emily - possibly for a cousin in NY about his own age. 

The Benjamin Thurber Mystery

Benjamin Thurber was born about 1720 possibly in Providence or Portsmouth, RI. He married Elizabeth Hallett in 1747 in Warren, RI. His parents have never been determined. Since the Thurber surname was not a common one, it is assumed Benjamin was somehow connected with the immigrant progenitor John Thurber (c. 1626-1705). The question that remained was whether he was an unrecorded son of a Thurber male, adopted by a Thurber family, born to an unmarried Thurber woman who gave him the Thurber surname, or assumed the Thurber surname in some manner. 

The family of immigrant progenitor John Thurber and wife Priscilla were the first to use the Thurber surname, and are commonly referred to as“the first Thurbers.”  They were known to be in Swansea MA ca. 1668. 

The Thurber name was continued through the four sons of John and Priscilla - Capt. John, James, Thomas, and Edward. Thurber researchers often refer to the Thurber lines by the name of the sons. In addition to these four Thurber lines, descendants of Benjamin Thurber (b. ca 1720) refer to their Thurber line as the Benjamin line.

The Thurber DNA Project was initiated to see if DNA matches would provide any clues to Benjamin’s paternity. Several Thurber males with carefully researched paper trails back to Benjamin and/or to his son Isaac joined the project and had matching Y-chromosome results. Early in the project, there was also one other male Thurber participant with matching Y-chromosome results and he had a paper trail to the immigrant ancestor John through the Thomas line. This was promising sign that Benjamin was a descendant of John, but without additional matching results from another John descendant, it was premature to suggest we had our answer. 

Eventually a male Thurber participant with a well-researched paper trail back to John through the James line also had markers on the Y-chromosome that were an exact match for the markers of the other matching participants. This provided the final piece of the puzzle, and allowed the conclusion that there is a very high probability that John Thurber b. ca 1620 is the progenitor for all project members with matching Y-chromosome DNA. Although the line of descent from John to Benjamin is not known, there is little doubt that this connection is through the male Thurber line. 

In looking into the Benjamin connection to the "first" Thurber (John b. ca 1620), the most likely parents for him are John Thurber and Sarah Leonard - from the Thomas  line. 

Recorded children of John Thurber  and Sarah Leonard are:
i.      Samuel Thurber, born 21 March 1715/16
ii.     Elizabeth Thurber, born 12 August 1717.
iii.    Sarah Thurber, born 12 August 1717
iv.     John Thurber, Jr., born 3 March 1718/19
v.      Mary Thurber, born 5 May 1721
     vi.     Hannah Thurber, born 13 December 1726
vii.    Leonard Thurber, , born 27 December 1728
viii.   George Thurber, born 26 August 1730 

Benjamin’s date of birth is not known, but is generally accepted to be ca 1720. Benjamin could have been born in the years just before or just after daughter Mary.  If Benjamin’s birth was actually a few years earlier, John and Sarah could still be the parents, since Samuel or John Jr. Could have had a twin brother. John (who m. Sarah Leonard) was a twin and had twin daughters. 

One point I think is important is the Leonard name. The only times the name Leonard appears among early Thurbers are Leonard, the son of John Thurber and Sarah Leonard, or among descendants of Benjamin, both as a given name or middle name.  

Another point of interest is that John Jr (son of John and Sarah) named his son b. 1749 Benjamin, which could mean he named a son for his brother. 

In looking at male descendants of John, there doesn’t appear to be any another Thurber male at that time who could be Bejamin's father.  The problem before DNA testing was that we had to include the possibility of his father being something other than a Thurber male (e.g., son of a non-Thurber male and an unmarried Thurber female who gave him her Thurber surname). Now with the DNA matches, we have eliminated that possibility. This leaves the possibility that Benjamin was the son of John Thurber and Sarah Leonard or one of two remote possibilities: that there is an unknown Thurber male for whom there has never been found a  birth, marriage or death record; or that a known Thurber male fathered a child born out of wedlock, the birth was not recorded, and the child was given the Thurber surname. 

The following outline descendant tree gives the  male descendants of John and Priscilla  through the time Benjamin was born: 

1 John Thurber b: Abt. 1620     d: Abt. 1706
+Priscilla b: Abt. 1625 m: Abt. 1647
......2 John Thurber b: Abt. 1649 d: 24 November 1717
.....    +Mary Tucker b: Abt. 1644 m: 1 September 1671 d: 25 March 1718
.............3 Thomas Thurber b: 24 November 1676  d: Bef. 1717
..............   +Ann Walker  m: Abt. 1698     
..................  4  John Thurber b: 30 January 1700/01       d: 7 May 1791
....................    +Mary Brown     b: 28 March 1707 m: 8 April 1726       
......2 Edward Thurber b: Abt. 1654     d: 1703
........ +Elizabeth Shadwicke   m: 15 March 1674/75     d: Abt. 1680
*2nd Wife of Edward Thurber:                   
.......  +Margaret m: Aft. 1680 d: 1716
...........   3 Richard Thurber b: 1681 d: Bef. 4 April 1713
............  +Mercy b: Abt. 1688 d: 29 September 1760
...........      4 Edward Thurber       b: 31 January 1709/10 d: 25 March 1777
..................+Hopestill Luther     b: 4 October 1714  m: 19 November 1733 d: 31 July 1763
..... 2 Thomas Thurber b: Abt. 1656 d: 12 April 1703
.......  +Ruth Busecot b: Abt. 1660 m: 23 February 1676/77     
............3 James Thurber b: 4 August 1680 d: 10 January 1746/47
..............+Hepsibeth Lewis b: 16 July 1674  m: 25 December 1706    
........... 3 John Thurber b: 31 August 1690               
...............+Sarah Leonard b: 29 April 1691   m: 7 January 1713/14   
.                       (children listed above)
......2 James Thurber b: 26 August 1660  d: 26 March 1736
........+Elizabeth Bliss   b: 29 January 1657/58 m: 25 June 1684 d: 19 June 1723
........... 3 James Thurber b: 3 March 1684/85 d: 31 July 1711
........... 3 John Thurber b: 31 October 1686 d: 23 November 1709
........... 3 Jonathan Thurber b: 26 March 1695 d: 1746
............   +Mehitable Bullock b: 1 April 1701 m: 11 March 1723/24  
........... 3 Samuel Thurber b: 26 August 1700 d: 20 December 1785
............. +Rachel Wheeler b: 4 April 1701 m: 27 December 1722 d: 19 June 1755

Some of these Thurbers died too young to be Benjamin’s father, others married too late. I considered James b. 1680 who married Hepsibeth b. 1674. They had a daughter b. 1707, but no other known children. Since Hepsibeth would have been ca 56 when Benjamin was born, this doesn’t seem a likely scenario.  But there certainly could have been an unrecorded birth for John and Sarah. 

It may never be known who Benjamin’s parents were, but we do know he was a descendent of the “first Thurbers.” 

The Charles H. Thurber Mistake

In 1932, compiler Clarence E. Peirce’s research on Thurbers identified three separate persons by the name of Charles Thurber.  Two had the middle initial H, and one had the middle initial S. In researching a Clarinda Amelia Bagley who married a Charles Thurber, I discovered that these three persons were actually a single person, Charles H. Thurber, son of Alfred Wood Thurber and Mehitable Short. 

According to Peirce, they were: 

1. Charles H. Thurber, parents unknown, who married Clarinda A. Bagley. They had one child, Alonzo Francis Thurber b. Pawtucket 1860. Clarinda married 2nd Philip W. Chase. 

2. A Charles H. Thurber, parents unknown, b. Attleboro MA 1834. He married Amelia [last name unknown]. They had Charles Edgar b. 1853, Eliza T. b. 1857, Terrence F. b. 1880, Clarinda B. b. 1865, and Lucy T. b. 1870. 

3. Charles S. Thurber, son of Alfred W. Thurber and Mehitable Short, He was b. Attleboro MA ca 1836 and was married first to [person unknown]. He was married secondly to Lucy Wood 13 Dec 1873. It is noted that at his marriage he was called Charles H. Thurber age 36. 

The truth is that Charles H. Thurber, son of Alfred Wood Thurber was born Attleboro MA. ca.1834. Alfred and Mehitable were m. 20 April 1833 [date of Intention of marriage]. In the 1850 census he is listed as age 16. Charles married Clarinda Amelia Bagley in July 1851. They were still married when Charles married Lucy L. Wood 13 Nov. 1873.and began living with her as husband and wife in a house belonging to his father Alfred W. Thurber situated next door to Alfred’s home. According to Alfred Thurber, the couple separated about a year before Clarinda filed for divorce on grounds of bigamy. Clarinda filed 11 June 1875 and the divorce was granted the first Monday in October 1875. Clarinda was granted custody of the children “during their minority.” 

Charles H. Thuber died of heart disease in Mattapoisett MA 7 August 1894. He is listed as a married male age 63, born Attleboro to Alfred Thurber born Attleboro and Mehitable Short. Burial was in Pawtucket RI. 

An IGI file lists Charles H. Thurber with wife Clarinda Amelia Bagley but erroneously identifies his parents as Rensselaer Ferdinand Thurber and Dolly.  Rensselaer Ferdinand Thurber did have a son Charles, but he was Charles Hathaway Thurber b. 1835 NY and married to Eva Ford. 

A Charles Henry Thurber born RI 1838, son of Stanton Thurber and Martha B. Dexter,  married Melissa Winslow. Some WorldConnect files mistakenly include Melissa as a wife of Charles H. Thurber, son of Alfred Wood Thurber. 

James Thurber’s  Mother-in-law Mistake

 James Thurber was born 26 August 1660, probably in England, died 26 March 1736 in Rehoboth, MA. He married 25 June 1684 in Rehoboth Elizabeth Bliss, daughter of Jonathan Bliss. Over 100 WorldConnect sites and many published genealogies state that Jonathan Bliss was married to Miriam Harmon 

However, Eugene Cole Zubrinsky has posted the following information on Bliss message boards and it should be seriously considered before accepting the claim that Jonathan was married to Miriam Harmon. 

“JONATHAN  BLISS (1626-1687) was the son of Thomas and Dorothy (Wheatlie) Bliss of Braintree and Rehoboth, Mass. The oft-repeated claim that his wife was MIRIAM HARMON is false. She was, in fact, neither a Miriam nor a Harmon; there is no record of a Miriam Harmon in New England during this period. Jonathan Bliss's wife was almost certainly a daughter of George PUFFER of Braintree, Mass., probably named RACHEL. For a complete discussion of the factors that led to this misidentification and the evidence supporting its correction, see NEHGR 151(1997):32-37.”