Monday, August 17, 2009

Comstock Family - OOPS; Elizabeth Arnold's Age and Ancestors

In the third generation of my Comstock family, Samuel Comstock, born about 1654 in Providence to Samuel and Anne Comstock, married Elizabeth Arnold, 22 Nov 1678, in Providence as recorded in The Early Records of the Town of Providence, Vol. 5. Samuel's many activities are well documented in the Providence, Woonsocket, and Smithfield town records and histories.

Elizabeth's parents were Thomas Arnold and Phebe Parkhurst. This is tied up in a nice little package:

29 Jun 1685 Agreement of Heirs of Thomas Arnold. He having died in September, 1674, as was declared, leaving an estate of lands, goods, and cattle behind him not disposed of by will but only by word of mouth, leaving his mind with his wife and children how they should settle his estate: It was therefore agreed between his widow Phebe, and Richard the eldest son, Thomas, John, and Eleazer, also sons of deceased, and Elizabeth Comstock, his daughter, that there should be five instruments of covenant prepared and signed by all of them, Samuel Comstock signing as husband of Elizabeth.....
Early Records of the Town of Providence, Vol IV, p.115-122

Thomas and Phebe Arnold had come from Watertown, MA to Rhode Island.

There are two problems about Elizabeth in most accepted Comstock and Arnold genealogies. One is her date of birth is most often seen as 1645, which makes her a bit too old to be the mother of some of the children whose births are recorded in Providence. Born in 1645, she would have been 50 in 1695 - there are two sons' births recorded after this year, one in 1696, the other in 1699. A birth year of 1645, also indicates she was married at age 33, nine years older than her husband. Her death is also recorded in Providence - Elizabeth died 20 Oct 1747, at Smithfield, Rhode Island - born in 1645, she would have been 103. I doubt this birth year! I strongly suspect the digits were reversed (a common error) in some long ago record and she was more likely born circa 1654 or even a few years later. I'm amazed that so many authors have copied this birth year, seemingly without question. There is no recorded proof for her birth year and she easily fits in the family of Thomas and Elizabeth Parkhurst Arnold either way. She was listed last in the estate settlement of her father.

The second problem with Elizabeth is one I will not address further in this blog post but save it for a future post on the Arnolds. Suffice it to say that her father Thomas was not a half brother of the William Arnold, a contemporary in Providence, and his parents were not Thomas Arnold & Alice Gully in England. This connection is made in both Comstock and Arnold genealogies but has been quite convincingly disproved. William Arnold of Providence did indeed have a half-brother named Thomas - who probably never married and certainly never left the shores of England. I would recommend The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island, by Richard H. Benson, Newbury Street Press, Boston, 2009, to any researcher of the Arnolds who lived in Rhode Island. This excellent new book is primarily about the family of Thomas and Phebe Parkhurst Arnold, not of William Arnold, and it does correct this old error. I would think the book of benefit even to researchers of the William Arnold family by helping to sort out individuals of the same name.

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